The silent scream of this handsome young man lying in a coffin in a funeral chapel was piercing the hearts of all those present.  Family, friends and neighbours who had gathered to mourn him could not comfort each other the way people usually do.  At this wake, each one was fighting the screams he was hearing – screams for help, for acceptance, for understanding, for love. And whatever emotion each was experiencing, the overwhelming one was a felling of failure.  In some way we had all failed John.  We had failed to hear him in life and now his silent screams are haunting us because he chose his own death.

On the morning of March 25, 1987, John’s mom walked into his bedroom and found him hanged.

Control over death

Two weeks earlier John was in our home.  Our son Chris had come home from college for a few days.  Chris and John had been close friends since the beginning of high school and even now, at 23, got together at every opportunity.  I told John how pleased I was to see him again, and looking so good!  He had cut his hair short, grown a mustache, and dressed in neat sport clothes.

The morning of the day John died, I had attended a caregivers’ (I care for my invalid Dad) group meeting led by a social worker.  The topic was suicide, our own – have we considered it?  A widow who had taken care of her ailing husband for years stated simply that when her money runs out she intends to kill herself.  Another caregiver said that she has accumulated her lethal package for the time she might decide to end her life.  Several others talked about having control over their death as well as life.

When my turn came, I said that I felt terribly disturbed by their casual attitude towards suicide.  Whatever happened to ideals of living a life with dignity, or facing challenges, of struggling with difficulties, of accepting help and love form others  when we are faced with admitting our own weaknesses?  I urged them strongly to never talk like this in the presence of young people.  I said that I would never permit such talk in my home in front of my children.

While we sit around discussing the right – or lack of it – to commit suicide, our children are killing themselves in increasing numbers.  They have already gotten the message from adult’s remarks such as these: “I wouldn’t want to live like that,” I’d rather be dead than live in that condition.”  “I’ll kill myself before I let some doctor stick a tube into me.”  Media comics are having a field day with suicide jokes and are thus helping to make the subject commonplace and acceptable.

It’s only after one has experienced the pain of suicide of someone close that one finds such references to it distasteful.

What is the role of pro-lifers in a discussion of suicide?  It’s unfortunate that that the issue has reached this far.  When we take part in a debate we have already admitted that some people believe that there is such a right, although we do not, and that the listener will have to decide for himself.  If we refuse to take part in such a debate, then the pro-life side will not be heard.  Because the topic has already gained such a wide acceptance, I suppose we must defend out side.

Social death planners

However, is a discussion on assisted suicide – setting up “clinics” to help people kill themselves – we should not even take part.  I think that we must show our outrage at such a suggestion by staging a loud and informative (pass out flyers) demonstration at the site of each such conference.  To take part in discussing the establishment of such “clinics” is to give the false impression that suicide is a right and the talk is about “help” to carry out this right.  I would like to know what other pro-lifers think of this.

I only wish that these social death planners had been present at John’s wake.  They would have seen: John’s friends weeping inconsolably: parents, terribly disturbed admitting to each other, there but for the grace of God lies my son, or my daughter; John’s brother in shock; john’s Dad pacing endlessly, avoiding the sight of his dead son; John’s Mom, confused and motionless, asking herself, “I was a good mother wasn’t I?”  I know that she was, but she goes on asking.