Monday, April 23, 2012

Noah, Henry, Black and White and Canadian All Over

Henry and Noah

This is the way my brain works and, perhaps, my soul, if a soul were to work.

There's a whole lot of hoopla in the disability world about what some call mercy killing and others call euthanasia, still others call murder and still others genocide, with the invocation of the Nazi's Action T-4. Most of the hoopla stems from recent stories in the news of mothers who have either killed their children with severe disabilities and themselves or advocate for such killing when they deem the circumstances desperate enough. I'm not going to give you my opinion on all of this outside of my firm belief that while I'm in no position to judge what leads people to such tragic acts, I can certainly hold understanding in my mind and soul for how it happens. And I think I'm sticking to that despite despite, I imagine, people's belief that I'm immoral for doing so.

I read a Canadian blogger today who took a loud stance on this issue and that led me to a few other bloggers (curiously, also Canadian) and lots of condemnation and drawing of parallel lines to being disabled oneself and there was some talk of racism and disability advocacy and very, very righteous anger. I'm no stranger to the righteous anger stance (wince), but this particular topic gives me so much pause that I am, effectively, on pause.

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I drove Henry and Noah home from school today and thought I'd ask them about it and see what they thought.

Me: So, guys. I've been reading on the internet about some pretty disturbing stuff and I'd like to hear what you think about it. What do you think of a person who has taken care of her severely disabled child for over thirty years and decides to kill that child and herself because she can't take it anymore? The adult child has very serious issues, including physical suffering and the mother has been doing this for many, many years without the proper support. She is also afraid that when she is unable to do so, her child will not be taken care of properly and might even be put in an institution. We also don't know what her mental state is, whether she's depressed or isolated -- what her upbringing might be -- you know.


Noah, aged 13, only child: That's so awful. I feel bad for her and the disabled person. I wouldn't do that; I wouldn't kill the child, I couldn't kill him, but it's just so awful.

Henry, aged 13, sibling to a 17 year old with severe disabilities: That's so awful. I feel so bad for that mother. I mean, killing is wrong, but I sort of get it. I don't think I could do it, but I sort of get it. Mom, is this a true story?

Reader, I don't know about you, but these thirteen year old responses spoke more honestly and clearly to me than all the words of the bright, impassioned minds of the internet, those in the trenches and out.

And that's perhaps all I'm going to say about that.


  1. Compassion.
    No handing down judgments or "should haves."

    If only we could all be so articulate about our feelings instead of righteous about our positions.

  2. And I haven't got a damn thing to add. They said it all.

  3. it's true - it's so awful. and some of life's conditions are awful as well. no way can I judge.

    a friend of my takes care of her disabled older brother -- finding any kind of help or public assistance has been impossible. If she were to die...what would become of him? It's a horror to think....

  4. You are not immoral, E, you are human and beautifully so. With a soul that probably actully works overtime.

    Children are so close to "it", so close and so clear. We all need to listen to them with so much more respect.

  5. Such a heavy topic. It take a big sigh and try to think of an answer. (A Canadian answer!)
    I think I can only give this answer. I don't have an answer and because of that I would rather err on the side of killing is wrong. (I don't believe in the death penalty for the same reason. I can't decide if it is right or wrong.)
    And as much as I don't want to judge I think we as a society do have to judge. (I am sure millions of Germans said it was not their place to judge.) We have to stand up for those who are vulnerable! We can't turn away. I wish I could; it would be so much easier. the end of the day. My heart aches for a parent that feels so let down by society that they feel she needs to take the life of her child. Maybe that is my answer. We all need to step up to the plate and make it unnecessary for a parent ever to become that desperate.

  6. love the conversation and the boys answers... just want to let you know I shared the "last worst off person" w/ my 2 children ( 11 and 13 ) and husband.. (age unknown) and we talked about it for a long time over dinner ( and imagined all sort of likely or unlikely possibilities as the case may be).. Tell Oliver he "created a ripple on the east coast"

  7. This made me cry. Seems like Henry and Noah honed in on the center.

  8. I haven't heard of this particular story or incident, but, yeah, I'd say they hit the nail on the head.

  9. Young people have a clarity of vision which is often lost in our muddled experience of "everyone" being a bearer of the truth and enforcer of the "universal code." Bless them all and pray they do not become jaded...

  10. very deep-thinking boys, and a wise mom to let them know you value their thoughts on such hard life and death things.

    but what I'm really noticing on this post is how handsome Henry is!

    (is that shallow?)

  11. I think theirs is a lasting friendship in the making

  12. I love their responses. I love even more that you took the time to ask them.

  13. It seems to me from what you have related of this story that the mother just couldn't take the hardships of her life any more and being a loving mother, and justifiably worried that her daughter would not be taken care of at all if she wasn't there, she decided to take the daughter with her.

    Not that I could have done what she did.

    I love that you had this straightforward discussion with the boys and that you asked for their opinion. x0 N2

  14. Sometimes I wonder why people can't just say, I can't imagine what it is like to be them so I can't possibly judge their action ...

    Plus, how cute are those boys?



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