Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Better off dead"???

   Is suffering worth it?  I believe at the heart of the question of whether a person should live or be allowed to die (abortion of babies with disabilities, euthanasia, etc), is the concept of suffering.  What do we think about suffering?  If we believe no one benefits anything from suffering, then of course someone would consider it cruel to keep someone alive who has to suffer.  Suffering requires sacrifice and sacrifice flies in the face of the instant gratification society we have created for ourselves.  We have fast food, fast internet, fast cable access, fast shopping, fast credit cash, fast games, fast communication.  Everything is now.  What can such a generation possibly understand about perseverance and sacrifice? 

 The question, then, is this: which is higher, the value of life or the value of comfort? 

   Indeed, Life itself is more powerful than suffering.  This is true for every person, but particularly for women.  Even within her body, she was created to give life through her loving selflessness.  Love is sacrifice.  It is putting the good of the other above your own.  

   Today we have another contributing author, Elizabeth Slattery.  This amazing woman is the mother of ten children (7 on earth, 3 in heaven).  She has an incredible story to share on being stretched in love.  I am particularly proud to share this post, for this woman taught me what real love was.  Our family would be an empty shell without her breath of vitality.  Without further ado, I would love to introduce you to my mother

   “Elastagirl!  That moniker taken from The Incredibles is the mom's alter ego and what a great one for the mom!  How often do I feel stretched beyond my abilities and yet stretched again!  Stretched like the tuning of a guitar string.  Tighter and tighter.  Let me tell you of a time in my life when I was feeling a bit like Elastagirl or that guitar string.

   I thought that my life up to a point had been wonderful, full of God's grace and blessings.  I had a loving husband and now six amazing children with six different personalities.  They challenged us and taught us so much. Life was energized and exciting.

   We had our shares of troubles.  I had suffered the wrenching loss of two miscarriages.  And my husband had a serious condition that required two surgeries and a summer of recovery that I wouldn't wish on anyone.  Even that had passed.

   But I wasn't stretched enough!  In 1998 we gave birth to our beloved Stephen, a beautiful baby born with Down syndrome.  Piling this on top of all our life experiences thus far was a stretch I did not think I could muster.  And yet I knew the Lord had chosen me to love and raise this child.  Have you even tuned a guitar string to such a pitch that your were sure it would pop?  Yet it was made to hit that note and you just had to have faith that it would not pop and go ahead and tune it a little higher.

   I was getting tuned to be just the right pitch.  Questions raced through my mind.  What problems would this child have?  What care would he need?  How in the world would I be able to care for him?  But just like I approach the rest of life, I just needed to step forward one step at a time.  (like you tune a string very slowly, a little at a time)
- Today, he needed to be changed and fed.  I can do that today.  (slowly tuning)
- Today I can monitor the pulse oxygen level and call the nurse if it gets low. (one more tweak in the string)
- Today I can watch the doctors scan his heart to check the blood flow and detect a valve problem.  (tweaking just a little be higher)
- Today I can say a prayer for him to be healed.  (almost at perfect pitch)

   Tomorrow I will begin again. 

   As it has turned out, about fourteen years later, Stephen is a pretty amazing guy.  He had heart surgery at 4 months of age (stretched that string to a near breaking point!). But since then he has grown and blossomed and awed us over and over again.  He is an avid swimmer (the heart is strong).  He adores his family, especially the big brothers (It is a mutual admiration society - blessing upon blessing).  He is reading and writing, playing games, being an altar server at church.  With time and repetition he can do most anything he desires.  We are all so blessed.

   Did I know this when he was born? No.  Did I realize how adorable he would be?  No. Did I imagine he would win swim races and play baseball?  No. Did I believe he would be the one to remind me to give  him his medicine because I forgot? Never.

   But had I known all this, I would not have had to stretch so much.   I am better tuned because of my dear Stephen.  My notes clearer, my pitch more precise.

   Yes, you could call me Elastagirl.  But I thank God for my ability to stretch, my ability to go with the flow when needed, and my ability to adapt what I had always done in raising children to a new model for this one.  My skills stretched to increase my computer skills and online research to provide learning material for him.  My teaching skills expanded to include special needs awareness. 

   And like Elastagirl, often times I feel like I am creating a protective covering  for my special son.  But that's what a mother does.  That's what God expects of me.  That's what being a mother is all about.  It just seems more intense when your little one is fragile – more necessary.  Certainly this umbrella of protection will last a lot longer than the ones I had over my other children as they can mature into adults who can care for themselves. 

   But I don't for a minute regret Stephen's birth or the impact he has had on our family and the life around him.  The world is better for having Stephen in it. And I am certainly a finely tuned instrument of the Lord!”   - Elizabeth Slattery.

   My brother Stephen is such a precious and treasured member of our family!  To think that 90% of Down Syndrome children are aborted (because they have DS) should make everyone Stop. Think. See. 

    SEE this amazing child before you!  God has allowed things to go wrong sometimes, but through that evil He can bring an even greater good!

   Life IS worth it!  Christ gave meaning to suffering on the cross and only in dying to oneself can we have new life.  Who is courageous enough to go into the dark ground of suffering and sacrifice, not to seek it out but take it when it comes?  Who is courageous enough to be planted in that rich soil of sacrifice, to die to self, so that you may truly live?  And in what can feel like an overwhelming darkness, where there can be pain, hope is found at the foot of the cross.
   Thank you, Liz for sharing your story of love with us!  (I love you, mom.)

That’s my view of it and I welcome yours!  (Please comment below!)
And if you like what you’ve read, PLEASE SHARE!  THANK YOU!


  1. During my 4th pregnancy the doctors were pressuring me to kill my babies because of indications of chromosomal abnormalities. My answer was always "No, that is not an option for me." Even though I lost my sweet girls in the 2nd trimester, and almost lost my life as well because of a complicated miscarriage, I will never regret my decision to give my girls a chance at life.

  2. Wow! I'm weeping just reading your comment! Thank you for sharing that...how brave and loving you were to your little angels! I'm sure they watch over you from heaven!

  3. Thanks for this fantastic article! Suffering is a mystery. Even if we can't understand the necessity and value of it, we can know that it does have value since our Lord suffered for our sake. And every mother suffers at times over every child, both those considered to be handicapped and those not. But the joy outweighs the suffering!

  4. Mrs. Slattery, what a beautiful retelling of how God called you to stretch as the mother of a special needs child (and six other children!). In the two years since my son's autism diagnosis, I have begun to realize how God is using this to change me, even as I have prayed for my son to change. It's amazing how these experiences bring such unexpected gifts as we are asked to stretch. I hope to meet you on a visit to your daughter's some day.

  5. This is a wonderful story.

    Theresa, I sent a nice nod to your blog from my site: http://www.naptimenovelist.com/2012/04/spreading-bloggy-love.html

    1. Rhonda, you are generous and wonderful as always! thank you!

  6. Beautiful story. I have a genetic condition (EDS) and I'm sure doctors would be encouraging women to kill us if they could detect it before birth. I was told of likely never have children, so when wet found out I was pregnant (and also incredibly sick) almost no one thought I should keep the baby. But my husband and I always believed the whole thing was God's plan. 4 years later I am doing so much better all thanks to God and the sweet little boy He blessed me with.
    I still experience very severe pain, but never have I wished I was never born. Thank you for reminding people of this!