My son suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in an accident at age seventeen.
Stable, but still comatose, he needed a feeding tube. My husband and I met with his care team to authorize it. A doctor asked us if we had considered whether our son would want this; perhaps, she suggested, we should "let nature take its course" rather than subject him to a diminished life.
At that moment the essential simplicity of the truth — life itself is good — was all we had to cling to. We explained that he didn't have a choice between this life and his life before the accident. This life he now had was God's, not ours, to give or to take; our only job, as his parents, was to love him. Loving him means feeding him; there was no choice to make.
A person at the meeting later told us that many in the room were very moved that we were able to reject clearly the false assumption that suffering made life unworthy. Now our son is home. Still completely disabled, his life is a blessing to all of us. His suffering and disability, while real, are the least important things about him. He is loved. He enjoys friends visits, playing video games, watching sports (he still summons up a really obnoxious smirk when his Packers beat my Bears). His dignity and worth come not from what he can do, but from who he is — a child of God.
Kimberly Shankman. "'Life is Good'." Magnificat (December, 2017).
Reprinted with permission of Magnificat.
Kimberly Shankman is the academic dean of Benedictine College. She and her husband live in Atchison, Kansas, where they care for their youngest son.Copyright © 2017 Magnificat
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