Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Dying with dignity

The Supreme Court of Canada is currently considering the question of assisted suicide, or what some people call the right to die with dignity. This has brought back to my mind something that happened many years ago. This account would not have any significance to the legal minds who are arguing before the Supreme Court, but I think it demonstrates the possible effect the choice of an early exit of this life could have on one’s eternal destiny.

In the early years of our married life Tom and Theresa*, a couple who attended the same church as we did, had been our good friends. Then we moved away and eventually lost touch with them. Some years later we heard that Theresa and the children had left Tom.

A time came when we were back in the area for a few days and we phoned Theresa and invited ourselves over for a visit. She told us how Tom had been physically abusive to her all their married life. She had covered up what was really happening at home and tried to keep the family together for the sake of the children. Then Tom became physically abusive toward their oldest daughter. That was the breaking point, she took the children, moved out and began a new life. Tom never admitted any wrongdoing or made any attempt at reconciliation.

Then she told us how it had gone when Tom’s father (who also belonged to the same church) was dying. Toward the end, when he was in the hospital and it was evident he was not going to get better, Theresa was the only one of the family to spend time with him. Her father-in-law had never admitted that his son had done anything wrong and blamed her for the breakup of their marriage.

Finally one night his internal organs began to shut down and it was apparent the end was near. Theresa sat with him the whole night, praying for him and trying to discover if he was at peace with God and ready to go. He turned his face to the wall and would not speak to her at all through the night. At last, as morning approached, he turned to her and whispered that he was sorry for all that had happened and asked if she could forgive him. They prayed together and he was at peace. He breathed his last as the morning light dawned.

Would it have been better for Tom’s father if he could have decided to “die with dignity” a few hours, or a few days sooner?

* not their real names

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