We belong to one another

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Home > Media > News > We belong to one another
We belong to one another

By Fr Richard Ross
Parish priest of Bellerive-Lindisfarne Parish

I have spent decades involved in youth ministry and high school chaplaincy roles and have dealt with far too many suicides through the years. Many times I have heard people struggle to justify the death of their friend and conclude: “It is his life, it is his choice.” Even if the young person believed they were a burden, or unloved, or worthless, the evidence at their funeral makes a lie of this perception.

Our lives are rarely lived in isolation. We each exist within a network of significant relationships; each of these relationships shapes our identity; each of these people is invested in us at some level and is impacted by our death. To say “our life is our own to dispose of as we like” is therefore untrue. We each belong to one another in family, in community, in society.

If a teenager asked you if they should end their life because life was painful and difficult and they were without hope, I expect you would try to dissuade them. If we accept the same arguments for advancing the death of an elderly or disabled person, we will find ourselves morally compromised.

Dying is a natural process that involves emotional and spiritual pain along with physical pain. It is my experience as a priest attending the dying over the past 25 years that so much healing and reconciliation can happen in the final moments of a person’s life. Every effort must be made to ease the physical suffering of a person, and research in this area is urgently required, but I fear that if we sanitise death, making it neat and controlled, we will deny the possibility of this hard spiritual and emotional work being done and will be deprived of the extraordinary personal enrichment that can flow from it.

The journey of my own mother through dementia was cruel and unjust and horribly painful to watch, and while we were relieved as a family when her suffering (and our suffering) ended with her death, I cannot imagine the unresolved emotional toll of agreeing to end her life any sooner. The suffering of my dad since that day has been just as hard to watch. Such is the pain of love, and we meddle in that mystery at our own peril.