“Ohhhh!” A spark snaps from the embers and sizzles through the fleecy fabric of my shirt. I have a few sweatshirts and jackets that have been similarly annointed. It’s just one of the hazards of sitting too close to a campfire — something I’ve been doing on summer nights for decades.
I love a campfire… its cheery crackling, flickering colours, and toasty warmth. Oh, and S’mores, foil-wrapped potatoes (or cobs of corn) baked in the coals, flame-charred popcorn… what’s not to like? Fire is wonderful… that is, if it doesn’t get out of control. When I see scenes of forest fire devastation on TV, or drive through areas of blackened sticks that were once lush evergreen trees, and crumbled foundations of what were once homes, I am reminded of how fragile our control is over life and the environment.
Something else on television reminded me of that this week, too — the posthumous video made by Canadian microbiologist Dr. Donald Low, an advocate of assisted suicide. He isn’t the first dying person to argue for ‘the right to die with dignity’, that it’s his body and he has the right to say what happens to it and how his life will end. The weakness in that argument, at least from my perspective, is that our bodies are not ours. Even those who don’t believe in God can’t say they chose to be conceived, when or how they would be born, or what bodies they would have for the duration of their lifetime.
Life is a gift. I didn’t always see it that way, but as a Christian, I’ve come to understand mine is a gift from God, infused with uniqueness and lent to me for my life’s duration. It is to be used much as in the Parable of the Talents* where the owner’s gold was put into the care of his stewards during his absence, to be used wisely and not wasted.
At life’s end I trust that the knowledge he has given to those in the medical profession will be used to keep me as comfortable as humanly possible until God decides it is my time to return to him.
Dignity isn’t found in legal lethal drugs. Who needs dignity, anyway. After all, what was dignified about the way we came into this life?
I push my camp chair back a bit from the fire. The flames mesmerize me with their layers of colour. The hottest blaze blue and fiery embers darken, while newness flashes yellow white. Tiny flicks of rich colour feed from an unknown source, burn brightly and are soon gone.
Even as I loll in the welcome warmth, the bucket of lake water sits close by, ready to douse any wayward sparks. I may not have control over lightning strikes, but I am responsible for this circle of fire created by my own hand.
* Matthew 25:14-28
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