Lance Scranton: Seeking refuge in strength, wisdom
November 11, 2014
This past week two news stories have torn at my heart and challenged my conscience. Two young women, each stricken with rare forms of brain cancer, made two very different decisions.
One, Brittany Maynard chose to end her life at the age of 29, after being told by her doctor that she "might" live 10 more years or as few as 14 months. The other, 19-year-old Lauren Hill, has no idea how much longer she will live, but chose a different path: a basketball player for a small college in Ohio, she scored points in her team's victory Sunday, has helped raise more than $200,000 for cancer research and is being featured on the Wheaties cereal box.
Each young woman was forced to deal with a tragedy they did not choose, didn't want, and never saw coming. Neither could imagine they would be making headlines for deeply personal decisions they were forced to make.
It is impossible to know exactly how any of us would react to a diagnosis that means a life will end. Few of us will ever have to make such decisions, especially at such a young age, but each of us, deep in our heart, hopes and prays this type of ordeal is never visited upon us. But deep in our conscience — we know it's unavoidable — which is why we tread carefully when discussing disease and dying.
I've been profoundly touched by the responses to tragedy that many people in our community display when faced with impossible situations that appear to have no earthly reason. It is with deep regard for the human condition that I have attended funerals to pay my respects to families whose lives have been tainted by calamity — who are literally numbed by heartbreak.
The ebb and flow of life catches most of us off guard when realities beyond our control pop our bubble of security and reveal fault-lines and fractures in the circumstances of life. But, how do we respond? How do we cope? How do we continue when "the world" shatters our hopes and dreams?
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We carry on, we struggle, we fight for what is right and live as honorably as we can — doing our very best because life is that precious — and yes, that fragile. I don't know what's in store for any of us but I do know that Lauren Hill and Brittany Maynard didn't choose their circumstances and were forced to make unfathomable decisions, and have my profound and deepest sympathy.
I may not agree with the path some choose when their health and welfare are violated by reality but gathering wisdom and strength from the example of others can be a refuge for us all.