The Magnificent Value of a Single Life

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Math fact:  Over the course of just 500 years, it took a million people to come together at specific times to conceive the many generations before me to make my own conception possible.

And those are just the people to whom I am related.  Lets now factor in all the other people it takes to bring lives together.  Friends, a coworker, a teacher – the multitude of people who move in and out of one person’s life, each making an eternal mark upon a single soul.

Millions of people are needed to make one person possible.  What further proof do we need that God has a plan for each of us?  God’s hand, God’s plan.

This fact reminds me of photo mosaics.  This art form, used in some advertisements and even jigsaw puzzles, uses an overwhelming congregation of tiny complete photographs of countless people arranged by colors and levels of light to form one single image.  From far off, all you see is the larger image, but a closer look reveals the intricate details of many faces and lives combined to form the one.

If the larger picture is of me, there are millions of other lives within my image who made my presence possible at this precise time in history.

And again, how many large pictures of others are there that contain my tiny image?  I will know only after I die.  An image of me as a baby, teenager, mother, and perhaps (Lord willing!) as an elderly woman – any time my life has touched another, my image is permanently placed within that person’s larger picture of themselves.

Life is precious, from conception to natural death, and you never know when you will have the most spiritual effect on another soul.

My grandmother, who has since passed away, spent her last years in a nursing home bed, blind and suffering excruciating pain every day.  Most days she felt useless, yet it is precisely because of her supposed “useless” state that she was able to bring about so many graces.

She refused pain medications and offered it up to help my husband to get a job.  And she is the only one who prayed to my confirmation Saint, St. Theresa of Avila, every day since I received the sacrament.  No small wonder it was St. Theresa of Avila who finally brought me home to the faith in the most amazing way, through my grandmother’s prayers.  What might have happened if it weren’t for her constant pleas for my soul?

While most saw her as useless, St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:22: “Those that seem to be the more feeble members of the body, are more necessary.”  Ad not only necessary, but precious – and deserving of our highest respect.

Teaching your children about the infinite value of life is the perfect way to instill respect for life in their hearts.  And with Respect Life Sunday approaching, the Church gives us the perfect opportunity to pass this teaching on to them.  Do not present them with difficult terms such as “euthanasia” or drone on and on about the evils of abortion. Most children raised in a Catholic home will already have a basic understanding of these evils.  Instead, give them a chance to see the power behind your words and the teachings of the Church.

On Saturday, pop some popcorn and go through your photo albums and really discuss the people presented there.  Tell stories of how people met, how they touched your life, and the difference they made in your life and how you made a difference in theirs.

When they go to bed, choose one person to eliminate.  Go through the albums and remove every photo of that person.  Then remove any photos of events that could not have happened, or of other people who never would have entered your family’s life had that one person never been born.

For instance, if I were to eliminate my sister Kim from the albums, I would remove not only all of her pictures, but those of her husband and her children as well. Then I would have to go through and remove pictures of events that would never have occurred had she not been born.  I would not have won that second place ribbon for the long jump if she weren’t there to train me.  Vacations, birthday parties, midnight giggle sessions and tear fests, chance encounters with other people I met through her, any moment of growth, love or decisions I have made that hinged on my sister’s existence would not be there.  How quickly the album has been emptied!

If the one you choose to eliminate happens to be elderly, use this exercise to also point out how important it is that each person be allowed to live out his or her entire God-given life.  The graces lost, the last minute reconciliation and unexpected joys that might not have happened had the person been a victim of euthanasia.  The elderly people in our lives deserve great respect and your children would benefit greatly from regular exposure to such wise and valuable treasures.

On Sunday, look through the now much emptier albums.  Discuss the holes in other people’s lives that could never be filled whenever a life is denied.  If it takes a million people and 500 years to conceive a single person, imagine the loss we experience when millions of souls are never allowed to live out the life God planned for them.  Whether it was through abortion or euthanasia, it does not matter.  Their incomplete lives, lost too soon, leave a trail of incomplete lives that can never be recovered.

All of our lives are touched by these losses.  All of our portraits permanently altered by missing faces that were meant to make up the larger portrait of ourselves.  It is not just one life extinguished – it is history changed.  And because we are each tiny members of the larger body of Christ, the larger image of Christ and His Church is altered for all eternity.

Copyright 2011 Cassandra Poppe

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