I was always intuitively and viscerally upset whenever women who had suffered miscarriages would lament well-intentioned people having attempted to console them with the words, “You can try again.”
Like Job’s “friends”, such people unfortunately misunderstood the nature of the situation so profoundly as to be unable to offer a meaningful response to those suffering this loss.
Having understood it intuitively, I also wanted to try to understand as rationally as possible why saying, “You can try again” is so inappropriate.
That is when I came upon this compelling paragraph by bioethicist Robert Spaemann who tackles various intellectual positions that would seek to eject members from the human family.
The other day a friend of mine shared this profound aphorism from Nicolás Gómez Dávila which says:
Death is the unequivocal sign of our dependence.
Our dependence is the unequivocal foundation of our hope.
In 1993, a Canadian Supreme Court judge included the following statement in his decision:
“Although palliative care may be available to ease the pain and other physical discomfort which she will experience, the appellant fears the sedating effects of such drugs and argues, in any event, that they will not prevent the psychological and emotional distress which will result from being in a situation of utter dependence and loss of dignity.”
Here “utter dependence” is conflated with a “loss of dignity”, not the foundation of our hope.
Here’s an anecdote:
It was the summer of 2018 when I crashed an Aramaic summer camp for Maronite children living in northern Israel. I got to have a blast singing songs and playing games with the children who are growing up navigating a complex identity with an extremely fraught history in a pretty volatile region.
One day during that camp, I decided to ask an 11-year-old girl named Marie who lives just a few kilometres away from the border with Lebanon, “Who do you think is in greatest need of our prayers?”
The preteen immediately answered, “The kids of Florida.”
“Florida?” I repeated curiously.
“Yes,” she told me. “Because of the school shootings there.”
I was quite struck by this answer to the extent that I still remember it.
It is interesting to consider this perspective on danger.
After all, I am sure that, were I interviewing 11-year-olds in Florida about who most needs our prayers that someone there would have told me, “The kids of the Middle East.”
This evening, over a dinner reunion with a dear friend of mine, she confided to me that she did not consider herself to have been up to anything interesting lately.
As soon as I heard this, I objected because my friend most certainly has been up to a very many interesting things, and it is only a matter of clarifying what “interesting” truly means.
If you have ever had the delight of reading – or, even better, having read aloud to you – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry The Little Prince, you will remember the Little Prince’s reproach of the those grown ups who are ever concerned with matters of consequence:
This evening I was having a chat with a friend who shared with me about growing up with parents who differ considerably in terms of their outlook on the risks of life.
My friend’s father is the social, energetic, and adventurous type. Whereas her mother has always been more cautious – even to the point of being afraid of flying, anxious in the passenger seat, and worried about safety.
“Maybe it comes from a good place,” my friend reflected, wanting to offer the most charitable interpretation. “Maybe it’s a matter of gratitude – knowing that you have a lot and simply wanting it to stay that way, not wanting to risk damage or disruption to that which you cherish so much.”
My friend told me that her mother’s fear of loss can be crippling but that, as a mother herself, she can also understand it to some extent.
When my brother Brandon was born prematurely, my mother met at lot of other parents in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) who were all living on pins and needles with uncertainty over the future of their respective children.
One woman was continually writing letters to her child about what she was feeling and about what he was going through each day. Together, she and my mom went shopping for clothes at Build-A-Bear because the clothing for teddy bears was the right size for their premature children who were too small to fit any of the baby clothing they could find.