criticism, questions & the ending of life

Some situations just make me pause. The circumstances are hard. There is no criticism, no judgment… just hard. But I admit, from afar, it’s often easier to criticize one or more of the key players rather than standing back, asking more questions, recognizing that our judgment is secondary to our prayers.

In a story covered last week by a wide array of media— from CBS to People Magazine — note the following circumstance regarding an especially fluid situation, as reported by Great Britain’s “The Guardian”:

“Doctors can withdraw life support for an 11-month-old boy against the wishes of his parents, a judge has ruled.

Specialists at King’s College hospital in London had argued that giving further intensive care treatment to Isaiah Haastrup was “futile” and not in his best interests. They say he is profoundly disabled but believe he might be able to feel pain.

Isaiah’s mother, Takesha Thomas, and father, Lanre Haastrup, both 36 and from London, wanted treatment to continue. Neither were in court for the handing down of the judgment.

In his judgment, Mr. Justice MacDonald said: ‘Examining Isaiah’s best interests from a broad perspective… I am satisfied that it is not in his best interests for life-sustaining medical treatment to be continued. That, with profound sadness, is my judgment.’

The judge said it was a ‘grave and difficult case’ and discontinuing the treatment would, on the evidence before him, ‘lead to Isaiah’s death.’ There was ‘a stark difference’ between the views of the medical professionals and parents regarding Isaiah’s medical condition and prognosis, he said.

He said the parents’ evidence on Isaiah’s level of responsiveness was ‘both understandably and sadly heavily influenced by the flattering voice of hope’ and was not reliable evidence. ‘I am satisfied on the evidence before the court that Isaiah has no prospect of recovery or improvement given the severe nature of the cerebral atrophy in his brain.’

He was satisfied Isaiah would remain ‘ventilator dependent and without meaningful awareness of his surroundings,’ adding: ‘Having as I must Isaiah’s best interests as my paramount consideration, I am entirely satisfied that it is no longer in Isaiah’s best interest to receive life-sustaining treatment.’

The judge paid tribute to the devotion of Isaiah’s parents. ‘It is trite but true to observe that the court cannot imagine the emotional pain that the conclusion of the court will cause to the parents. It is my hope that, in due course, the parents will be able to derive some small measure of comfort from the knowledge that they have done all that they can for their much-loved and cherished son to seek an alternative outcome for Isaiah’…

The specialists and Isaiah’s parents disagreed over his level of responsiveness. His parents said they believe he responded to his mother’s face and touch…”

And so in my desire to ask more questions than assert any claims of knowing best, I wonder:

Who does know best?
Is hope a valid enough defense?
Can hope be reliable?
What is the meaning of “in his best interests”?
Who gets to decide those best interests?
Who would pay for the infant’s continued care?
Does money matter?
Should it matter?
Can we trust the giver and taker-away of life?


Am I more prone to criticism of any involved than asking good questions from afar?


if we were united…

As we await yet another Super Bowl, we await yet another appearance by none other than the New England Patriots. This is the tenth time the Patriots have played in the NFL’s annual championship game — the most of any NFL team. It is also the eighth appearance under the tenure of head coach Bill Belichick. Led by future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, the Patriots’ dominance on the gridiron has been unprecedented.

Much of that dominance seems evident in the decades-long unity both on and off the field; in order to be consistently victorious, the coaches, players, and all those associated need to be on the same page…

What’s the game plan? … where do we need to be when?… let’s do this together!

Successful sports teams are “together” teams; they are unified. Unity — combined with talent, hard work, and giftedness — equates to strength.

So as we live amidst a culture that seems to crave unity yet struggles to find what is lasting, I find myself pondering what exactly allows for the potential of permanence… what unity has the potential to never be undone? Where does true unity lie?

Like ambition and uniforms are simply not big enough to cover us all. Like life stories and demographics can also fade in time. Like gender only covers half of us.

Hence, we must ask: what’s big enough? What’s big enough to never go away?

“Isn’t there one father for all of us, one God who created us?”

Unifying under anything other than that profound yet oh-so humbling realization that there is solely “one God who created us” will at some point glean a few cracks, as in anything lesser, individual differences and thus competing desires will eventually come into play.

Note the Patriots’ challenge as they move forward after Super Bowl LII…

Brady will turn 41 in 2018 — Belichick, 66. Each wants to win, but also… totally understandably…

… Belichick wants to keep his job.

… Brady wants to play as long as he can.

… and owner Bob Kraft wants to keep winning after Belichick and Brady are gone.

Competing motivations would thus seem to serve as potential for cracks in the unity — whether in football, politics, you-name-it. Recognizing we are each created by God, however, is the only aspect big enough in which there exists no individual difference wherein a competing motivation could lie.

Interestingly, a senior writer for ESPN questioned New England’s unity at the onset of this year’s playoff season. Said Seth Wickersham:

“Brady, Belichick and Kraft have raised expectations and possibilities so high that virtually no other team in the Super Bowl era could truly comprehend what it’s like to be them. Brady and Belichick weren’t only pushing the boundaries of what a team could accomplish. They also were challenging basic understandings of how a group of high achievers escape the usual pulls of ego and pride. For 17 years, the Patriots have withstood everything the NFL and opponents could throw their way, knowing that if they were united, nobody could touch them. Now they’re threatening to come undone the only way possible: from within.”

While the team disputed much of ESPN’s perspective of coming “undone,” the question remains how they best move forward, knowing preparations must be in play, without allowing for cracks in their unity… “if they were united, nobody could touch them.”

… if we were united, what could we do together?

Can we simply speak unity into existence?

Can we ignore our individual limitations and thus eventual, competing desires?

Or… could we pursue something more authentic… recognizing that the only lasting unity rests in a truth that is bigger? … that there is one father for us all and God who created us?