Earlier this month I was asked to speak at the Foundation Board Meeting at the hospital. Here’s the speech I gave. Enjoy!
Hi, my name is Rachael Benson. I have cerebral palsy and I’m 34 years old. I’ve been volunteering at Henry Mayo 10 years in July of this year. I’m known as the patient visitations volunteer. I go into the patients’ rooms and spend time talking and visiting with our patients while offering them a magazine. Traci and I are a team. I call Traci my cart pusher. She only goes in if it looks like there’s too much equipment and It’s going to be a tight squeeze. She also lets me know if it looks like a patient is asleep.
When I go into a room, I knock on a patient’s door and then say, “Hi, my name is Rachael. I volunteer here. Would you like a magazine? It’s free.” If people say yes I tell them what we have. I give them a magazine and tell them, “When you’re done, you can leave the magazine here and housekeeping will take care of it and toss it. Or you can take it home with you and it can be considered a gift from the hospital. Many times people smile and say, “Thank you.”
I explain to the patients that the magazines we get are donated by people from the community. If you have any magazines you’re not using, you can drop them off at the volunteer office where you get your visitor pass. People love hearing that and say, “That’s great. Now I know what to do with my magazines.” If I feel like they’re able and a patient is interested I give them the white pamphlet that says, “Who’s Your Healthcare Hero?” and say, “See the white pamphlet? That’s in case you want to nominate someone like myself, a nurse, a doctor, anyone. That’s just one way to let the hospital know they’re doing a good job.”
If a patient offers me a tip, I explain that I can’t accept cash. The service is free but if you want to donate to the hospital in honor of someone this pamphlet is how you do it. Since we started giving out the pamphlet I’ve been nominated Healthcare Hero six times.
Even if people don’t take a magazine they often say, “Thanks for coming by.” The fact that I’m in a wheelchair starts many conversations. People want to know what it’s like to be in a wheelchair because now they have to adjust to a new lifestyle and they just need someone to listen and relate to them. Sometimes I’ve inspired people to become volunteers at the hospital. I tell people, I love being here because I have cerebral palsy and people are often looking for a way to help the person with the disability. That’s fine but I like showing them that I can give back too. It gives me a sense of fulfillment. Coming here is a highlight of my week. People are impressed and often say, “Thank you for what you do.” I reply My pleasure.” It’s not uncommon for me to hang out in a room and talk to a patient for a while. One time I talked to a patient who was new to being paralyzed in rehab and now he was going to be in a wheelchair the rest of his life. We talked for two hours.
Outside of the hospital, I also volunteer at my church at my church at Grace Baptist Church on Wednesday nights in a program at my church called Awana. It’s a bible program for kids. It’s like boy and girl scouts but it’s Christian organized. I’ve been helping in it for 17 years. I teach the 5th and 6th-grade girls. The 5th and 6th girls are called the T & T club. That stands for Truth & Training. In October I did a lesson. How Becoming A Christian Is Like Becoming A Vase. It’s also on Youtube. If you want to check it out type in the title and then by Rachael Benson. Don’t forget the extra a or it won’t come up correctly. Remember the famous cook Rachael Ray? She spells her name the same way.
I also have a blog. http://rachaelbenson.com/ I write a lot about my life experiences. I like to tie in a Biblical lesson. I wrote a book for kids called The Hunt For Heaven. It’s a picture book for kids ages 4-8. There’s a link to it on my blog. I’m trying to get more of my writing out there. I would love to have a full-time writing job where I write bible lessons for kids. I’m also a member of the Henry Mayo Fitness Center. I love it. I love the atmosphere and the people. They’re very knowledgeable and very caring. I work with a personal trainer on Tuesdays. My mom is also an associate member under my membership. Since I volunteer at Henry Mayo we get a discount. My mom often says, “Don’t quit your job.” I love being here at Henry Mayo and volunteering in the community. I look forward to many more years to come. Thank You.
On October 25, 2017, I did my play-doh lesson for my Awana kids. It was fun. They said they could see how my lesson applied to their lives. Then they made their own vases. I really enjoyed it! Here it is!
How do you react when you see someone in a wheelchair? From experience, I’ve found reactions vary. I’ve seen people make eye contact with me, smile, look away and some even want to pray for my physical healing. It happened last Saturday when my mom and I went down to Orange County to visit my sister. We took my niece to the park. While we were there, a lady saw me sitting in my wheelchair. She approached me and said she felt led to pray for me.
“What’s wrong?” She asked.
I replied, “Nothing, I was born this way. I have CP.”
“What does CP stand for?”
“Cerebral palsy,” I answered.
I talked a little bit about Joni Eareckson Tada. She knew who she was. Then I said, “There’s more than one kind of healing. Suffering displays God’s goodness at Its best.”
“How so?” She said. The lady had been on disability from an illness for quite some time and still had many physical ailments. She was depending on her healing to come from one of those faith healing ministries on television.
“Many times, It’s the physical ailments and hardships in our lives that bring us closer to God. That’s when we depend on Him the most. I talked about the phrase, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I explained how I learn things about Him, I might not have learned otherwise. I also mentioned how I often feel like many times I get to see the good God does in other peoples’ lives because I need help from others. I often feel people need more of a spiritual healing than a physical healing. The lady was intrigued. I think she was surprised I could talk.
I talked about the story in John chapter 9: 1-3. “You know when Jesus is talking to the disciples and they asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Yes, I know that story.” She answered.
I went on and quoted the next part; “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” What I was trying to emphasize is the blessing that comes with a physical hardship that never goes away. The lady was pretty locked into her thinking. In the end, she did pray for me and said, God bless,” and walked away. My mom was impressed that I was able to talk to the lady and answer her so well.
“Good for you. I think you sent her away with a strong message.” She said“Yeah,” I said. “Now, I hope she’ll go home and take another look at that story, and think of me and my story, I hope she searches more in the word of God and finds the deeper kind of healing.”
It got me thinking. People often feel sorry for me because I’m in a wheelchair. However, for me, it’s the other way around. I feel sorry for the people who are looking for complete physical healing and want to pray for me because they don’t understand the blessing an ongoing hardship can be. Many of the old church hymns were written by people who had physical ailments. Because of what the songwriters went through, the old hymns really have meaning. For example, look at the hymn, “To God Be the Glory,” by Fanny Crosby. She was only six weeks old when she lost her sight because of a doctor’s error. Later on in her life, she said: “I believe the good Lord, in all His infinite mercy, has through my blindness consecrated me to the work I am to do.”
Well said! My favorite part is the stanza where it says, “Great things He has taught us, great things He has done, and great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son; But purer, and higher, and greater will be, our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.” She wrote that and many other hymns. I don’t think she would have written hymns like that if she didn’t have to lean so hard on the Lord for strength. The list of great hymns goes on and on.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I do believe people can get healed after many years of having an illness. I’ve seen it happen to a few people I know, and I’m happy for them. Praise God! I just don’t believe it happens in a faith healing service on television. If it does happen, it’s a miracle performed by God not man. God chooses who He will heal and who He will not heal. Those He doesn’t heal, I believe it means He has a bigger plan for their life and wants to use them in a special way. Jeremiah 29: 11 says,“ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future .” (New International Version) Another great verse is Ephesians 2:10 where it says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” One of the problems with faith healing theology is it gives the person with the illness or disability the impression it’s their fault. It happened because of a sin they committed. Nothing could be further from the truth! Again, read John chapter nine. I cannot emphasize that enough!
In one sermon a long time ago, my old church pastor Tom Givens said, “If those people on television really have the gift of healing, why aren’t they in a hospital helping people?”Tom Givens is in heaven now, but his words of wisdom have always stuck with me. His words couldn’t be any more accurate! For example, I volunteer at my local hospital twice a week and I haven’t seen any faith healers come. I’ve also heard Joni talk about when she first got injured after her diving accident. She went to a faith healing service. The light never shined on the section of people who were in wheelchairs. Why? Because the faith healer knew she couldn’t fix it! Many people walked away disappointed. Joni said it caused her to study the word of God more. Now she’s more satisfied with her life than physical healing could ever give her. As I’ve said before, I was born with cerebral palsy. I don’t expect it to go away while I’m here on earth. Instead of trying to get rid of it and spend my life being miserable, I choose to focus on what I can do rather than on what I cannot: as my mom often reminds me. Instead of always trying to get rid of pain, we ought to say, “What’s God trying to teach me through this? How can I use this to glorify Him? What are the blessings about this hardship?” Instead of cursing God in hardship, we should praise Him.
In my case, I can be thankful God pulled me through my birth. According to medical reports, I should be in heaven. I can be thankful I come from a loving Christian family who cares for me and has taught the gospel at an early age. I’m thankful I chose to embrace a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I’m thankful I’m able to help people at church and at the hospital. I can relate to people and have an impact on their lives that I wouldn’t have without the wheelchair. I can help people who may have to adjust to a lifetime of disability. In Philippians 4: 12-13, the apostle Paul says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
I’m glad people have a heart of compassion toward a person in a wheelchair. However, instead of praying for my physical healing, I’d much rather have people pray for my attitude that I would be content in every situation, and shine for Jesus. It’s not easy to keep the smile on my face. If I didn’t have God in my life, I couldn’t handle having cerebral palsy. It’s easy for me to compare myself to another person who has a lesser degree of cerebral palsy and wish I could do certain things, or dwell on memories of things my body used to be able to do that I can no longer do. However, the Lord calls me to stay focused in the present and be content in all circumstances. I need help with that more than anything!
Lord, help me to be content in any and every situation, and not get bitter when things get tough. Help me to remember it’s only through you I can do everything. Without you, I am nothing. Help me to embrace my cerebral palsy as a gift. Thank you for the many abilities you’ve given me. May I use them to glorify you with everything I do in my life. Help me keep my eyes focused heavenward toward you so that when the day comes, I will qualify to win the prize. I can’t wait to get my reward in heaven. Amen.
Here are some verses about having a new body in heaven:
2 Corinthians 5: 1-5: New International Version: ”For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
2 Corinthians 4: 16-18: New King James Version: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
If you’re interested in having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your savior, pray this prayer or something similar:
Lord, I can’t handle my life alone. It’s too much responsibility. I need you to come and take the weight off my shoulders. Show me the bigger plan you have for my life. I need that deeper kind of healing. Please come into my life and show me how to be content in all circumstances. Show me how your power is made perfect in weakness. From now on, I choose to follow your plan for my life and not my own. I can’t wait to see what the big plan is. Amen.
Activity/Discussion for 5th and 6th grade Awana or Sunday school. Have a contest. Have the kids make a crown using the play-doh. See which one is the best. Hand out first, second, third, fourth, and fifth place. Then talk about how as long as we are true Christ-Followers who honor the Lord, the kids are all winners in God’s eyes. Ask the kids what they can do to serve the Lord. What could they do that would make God say, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Welcome home.” Close in a time of prayer. Thank the Lord that He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. Pray to the Lord to help them to keep their eyes focused on Him so they will win the eternal prize in heaven. Emphasize that It’s not where you start with your trials that matters but where you finish. God is always interested in bringing us closer to Him.
Jessica wasn’t able to come to my house on Monday so she came last night so I wouldn’t miss an entire week of practice and my muscles wouldn’t forget how to do the hand movements. I did okay but it took me a few times to get the shapes formed the right way because it was nighttime and my body was tired. I function better during the day. After the third time, I finally got the ball formed the right way and I remembered to put the rolling pin in the middle so I could focus better on getting the right height for the vase. I did well with wrapping my fingers around the play-doh and squeezing it at the bottom so I could get the right height. The problem came when I was trying to form an hourglass shape to get the right height for the finishing touches. Jessica had to help me with that part. Just when I think I have it down pat, there’s always something else to work on. The same is true with your Christian walk. Just when you think you would do well in a certain situation, God puts a trial in your life to test your character and see what you know about Him. Will you put your faith in God’s goodness into practice, or will all those verses just be head knowledge? In what areas of your life do you need to grow? Always remember until the day you get to heaven, your eternal crown doesn’t have the finishing touches. As Christians, here on earth, we’re always in training. Lord, help me to make the most of my trials so I can be a light that shines for you. Help me to use them as times to really learn about you. Help me to remember there’s a great reward for those who finish the race well. I can’t wait to hear you say, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Welcome home.”
1 Corinthians 9: 24-25: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
Activity/ Discussion for 5th and 6th grade Awana or Sunday School. Bring some play-doh that’s not new. Have the kids try to build something with it. Anything they want. See if the pieces stay together. Talk about how the “cracks” in our lives, serve as trials to help develop our character and bring us closer to God. Talk about looking for blessings for the “cracks” in our lives. Close in a time of prayer and thank Him for being there through the tough times. It’s the “cracks” in our lives that cause us to grow.
Today was all about seeing what I could do in front of the kids when I do the lesson for Awana. I wanted to see if I could make the vase while telling a story and sharing scripture. That’s not going to happen. It takes a lot of focus for me to concentrate on the hand movements while I’m making the vase. Counsel time is short. See how the play-doh is falling apart? It seemed like every time I tried to make the vase, the play-doh gave me a hard time. I finally did make the entire vase with the help of Jessica because I’m still struggling with how to get the height at the top. If there was one crack in one place, as soon as I fixed it, there was another crack in another place. Eventually, the whole vase just fell apart. The play-doh had been getting old and dried out. It just wouldn’t cooperate. It reminded me of how many times there are “cracks” in our lives. God could fix them, but many times He doesn’t. Many times He allows the trials in our lives to stay in our lives to see how our character will develop, and how it brings us closer to Him. Trials are often how we learn more about God and get to know other people in God’s family. Without the “cracks” in our lives, we might miss out on other blessings. Because I have cerebral palsy and need help, I get to see the great work God does in the lives of other people. I get to minister to others in a unique way. In 2 Corinthians 12: 7 -10, the apostle Paul says,“I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Amen! Lord thank you for the “cracks” in my life that bring me closer to you. Help me to remember my blessings on a daily basis. Thank you for the many people you’ve put in my life who shine for you. Help me be a light to others. You may ask, “So how are you going to do the lesson Rachael?” I’m going to prepare the pieces ahead of time. Talk about each step it takes to make the vase, and back it up with scripture. Then I’m going to have the kids make something of their own with play-doh, and ask them how they would feel if that thing talked back to them, and told them, ‘I don’t like the way I’m made.” I want to communicate to the kids that God made them perfect in His image. Each person is beautiful just the way they are! I should be ready by late October or early November.
Wow! Today was amazing with Jessica! For not playing with play-doh for two weeks. I remembered most of the process all by myself. Jessica only had to help me toward the end. See how this vase is not as pretty as the one above? That’s okay. I did it, so it’s beautiful.The same principle applies to us as humans and everything God made in the earth. Genesis 1:31 says, “And God saw everything he had made, and it was very good.” Lord, help me not to get obsessed with the world’s beauty products and remember when you looked at me, you designed me and said, “Very good.” You are the master artist! Amen.
Activity/ Discussion 5th or 6th grade Awana or Sunday School. Have the kids copy a favorite picture of something they like or make something yourself with play-doh. See how well they can copy the design. Go around the room and give them compliments for their work of art even if it is a little sloppy. For me personally, I am such a perfectionist. When I copy something, I want to do it exactly like the picture. I get frustrated easily when I can’t-do something because of the limitations with my limited hand dexterity. Because I have cerebral palsy, learning things takes time. God didn’t create things in one day. He took His time. Then He looked at everything and said, “It Is good.” Remind the kids how when God looked at them, He said, “It is good.”
Today was another great day with Jessica. I’m almost at the point where I can make the whole vase all by myself! I finally got the hang of wrapping all my fingers around the play-doh and squeezing it at the bottom so I can get the right height for the vase. This picture shows me doing it just right. However, Jessica took the picture just in time! Shortly after she took the picture, I had trouble getting all my fingers to wrap around the play-doh! My brain is used to doing the external internal rotation movement with the play-doh containers, but not the actual play-doh. When we took the containers away. it was like my brain said, “What’s going on?” The reason it looks so good in the picture is that I had just practiced doing it with the containers, so it was still fresh in my mind. The muscles were warmed up. However, things still happen in steps. With cerebral palsy, when my muscles are used to doing something a certain way, change takes time. in the same way, as Christians, we don’t always understand the changes the Lord is making in our lives. We just need to trust Him. He’ll reveal His plan in His perfect time. Lord, help me to trust you even when I don’t understand what you’re doing in my life and remember your will is perfect. Amen. Proverbs 3: 5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Activity/Discussion 5th or 6th Sunday School or Awana. This is also a good lesson about patience. If you have a child in the class with a physical disability, have them try the exercise I did. It’s also a good lesson for the other kids on how to help one another if someone is better at getting the height than someone else. Remind them how the Lord is patient with us as we grow in our walk with Him, and how we should be patient with one another.
Activity/ Discussion for Awana or 5th and 6th grade Sunday School. Skip a week of play with play-doh and do something else. Then go back to it next Sunday and see what happens. See if the kids remember the steps for what they made with the play-doh. Talk to them about the Importance of practice and how it applies to the Christian faith. When it comes to finishing the race well, It’s always important to stay in training Reading God’s word and meeting with other strong Christians is what helps us get through hard times.
On Tuesday, Jessica and I worked on making a vase again. We skipped last week because I was working on another article for my Blog and it showed. Jessica had to remind me of the steps before making the vase like rolling the play-doh into a ball after I flatten it. Once I got going, I did well. However, I’m still trying to work on making the opening for the vase. I had a hard time turning my hands inward and outward and wrapping my fingers around the play-doh especially with my left hand. This is necessary to get the right height for the vase. The reason I’m holding the containers of play-doh is to practice opening and closing with my hands and wrapping all my fingers around the containers so I can practice making the bottom of the vase. Just like it’s important for me to constantly practice so my muscles remember how to do things, It’s important for us as Christians to continuously have fellowship with each other to practice our Christianity and make sure we are still following God’s narrow pathway. When we miss too much fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord, our minds begin to become captivated by the world and we start to sound like them. Being around like-minded people helps remind us of us of His promises and goodness in our lives. Hebrews 10: 24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Lord, help me to remember how important it is to meet with other Christ-Followers on a regular basis. Thank you for the people who are in my life who help me grow in my walk with you. Amen.
Activity/ Discussion 5th or 6th Awana or Sunday School. Talk to the kids about a time when they have really had a goal and wanted to go for something. A trophy or a ribbon in a contest, etc. What did they do to get ready for it? In the same way we spend time getting ready for other things, we should keep our eyes heavenward on Jesus. When we want to do something, we should first ask ourselves, “Is this something the Lord would be pleased with?” Would He say, “Well done my good and faithful servant” when we get to heaven?
I’m getting better at making a vase. Today I did almost everything by myself without any help from Jessica. I still need to work on forming the hole for the opening. I need to work on wrapping my fingers around at the bottom and squeezing with my hand open to form the bottom part. My pinky tends to want to be as Traci says, “The flying finger.” I need to practice the open and close motion with my hands. I’m making progress with the vase, but it takes some time to learn certain fine motor skills. I still have more to learn. I’m not finished. In the same way, as Christians, it takes time for us to grow in the faith. When we persevere through the hard times in our lives by praying, reading the Bible, and spending time with other Christians, we can say, “Thank you, Lord, for bringing me through my trials. You are good all the time and all the time you are good. When things get tough, help me to press on and keep my eyes on you as I press toward the goal the goal to win the prize.” Amen. Philippians 3:14 says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Here’s my very first Ballet Recital on March 28, 2015. I’m the sugar plum fairy at the end. Special thanks to Sarah March who set the ball in motion, and everyone else involved who made my dream come true! It really was a taste of heaven! I truly felt like royalty!
Here’s some behind the scenes pictures and the story of what inspired the Ballet Recital. Enjoy!
Joni and Friends Family Retreat 2012 in Murrieta California. Art workshop with wheelchair artist Tommy Hollenstein. The theme was, “We Are His Workmanship.” What a fun year that was!
A friend of mine told me they started to read this article but didn’t finish because they wanted to see the movie for themselves. This is not your typical movie review. If you want to see the movie for yourself, that’s your choice. However, I suggest you grab a box of tissues! Then come to my Blog afterward, read the review, and learn how assisted suicide goes against God’s plan for the human race. HE LOVES YOU! YOU DO HAVE A PURPOSE FOR LIVING!
The other night my mom and I watched Me Before You on Hulu. The movie trailer makes it look so good. I was excited to have a person in a wheelchair as the main character. You don’t get to see that very often in a movie. At a glance, it looks like the story of the development of an extraordinary friendship. It is— but that’s not the whole picture. Unfortunately, looks are deceiving.
The movie is based on a novel written by Jo Jo Moyes in 2012. Sam Claflin plays William Traynor, who becomes almost completely paralyzed in the wake of a run-in with a motorcycle two years earlier. Will comes from a very wealthy family where they have a British estate crowned by a massive castle. His father, Steven Traynor, played by Charles Dance, is in the financial business. That’s what Will used to do before his accident. Now that he’s in a wheelchair, he just wants to stop living and shut out the world. He even pushed his ex-fiancé out of his life because of his accident.
In an effort to try to cheer him up, his mom Camilla Traynor, who is played by Janet McTeer, hires a caregiver. Her name is Louisa Clark. She is played by Emilia Clarke. Her former employer who was closing a Café gave her a letter of recommendation and described her as a person with, a “warm, chatty, life-enhancing presence with a lot of potential.” It sounds like a perfect match right? She could be a good influence. Will’s mom hires Louisa. He’s very difficult. He just wants to be left alone. For a long time, he doesn’t say a word to her. At one point, Louisa is ready to pack up and leave because Will is so difficult. Then Louisa learns he wants to go to a clinic in Switzerland where they will help him commit suicide and end his life. However, that’s not for six months. There’s still time. If she can show him adventures he can have in his wheelchair, maybe she can convince him to change his mind.
Louisa starts planning trips. They go to a horse race, a concert, a wedding, and more. Will even starts smiling and joking around. It looks like Louisa just might be able to win him over and get him to stick around. He even says, “You are pretty much the only thing that makes me wanna get up in the morning.” Louisa answers, “Then let’s go somewhere – anywhere in the world, just you and me.”
He even talks about how he used to go to Paris. Louisa says, “Let’s go,” but he just can’t get passed the fact that he’s in a wheelchair now, and he doesn’t want his memories replaced by the struggles to get his wheelchair under the table. He wants to go to Paris as his old self. The person Louisa never knew before his accident. Despite the fun they’re having, Will can only focus on everything negative, like when his tires get stuck in the mud coming out of the van at the horse race.
In spite of all her energy and infectious smile, Will tells her when they go home he’s going to Switzerland. He told his parents six months and it’s been six months. Time is up. As she crying while they’re under the stars on a tropical island, he says, “Shh. Listen, this, tonight being with you is the most wonderful thing you could have ever done for me. But I need it to end here.”
Even though she’s crying and pleading for him not to do this, confronting him about his selfish decision saying things like, “I know we can do this. I know it’s not how you would have chosen it, but I know I can make you happy. And all I can say in that you make me… you make me into someone I couldn’t even imagine. You make me happy, even when you’re awful, I would rather be with you – even the you that you seem to think is diminished – than with anyone else in the world. I have become a whole new person in the last six months because of you.” He still goes through with the plan. How sad.
Something I find interesting is toward the end of the movie he writes Louisa a letter of advice that she reads while she’s in Paris. He wrote it just before he died. Toward the end of the letter, Will tells her, “Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live.” Too bad Will couldn’t learn to accept as my dad would say, “The new normal,” and take his own advice. He had so much! Not only money but also love and support from friends and family. Too bad he couldn’t have found a reason for living.
The movie really disgusts me for many reasons. First, before I wrote this article, I watched the process of assisted suicide on YouTube just to see exactly what happens. Both people who went through with it had an illness for a long time and didn’t want to be a burden to people. In the movie, Will isn’t even sick! The movie gives people with disabilities the impression living with a disability is too hard. Why not just end your life? It’s okay to give up. No, it’s not! Giving up is NEVER the answer!
Secondly, the movie is a love story and of course, they don’t show the whole process because that’s Hollywood. By the time Louisa gets there, the medicine has already been administered and Will is waiting to die. The two of them have a long dialogue of saying goodbye to each other before he actually dies. They make it look so peaceful. What they don’t show is how in the clinic they first ask the person if they really want the drug knowing they will die. When the person says yes, they ask them if they’re sure. When the person confirms they’re sure, then they hand the person the drink. The person might get one line in thanking their loved ones for watching them, but that’s it. The Euthanasia starts to take effect within 2-3 minutes. Once the person sips that drink, there’s no turning back. Their organs are being destroyed. It makes them feel nauseated.
According to an article titled “Euthanasia Group Promotes Cheaper Drug for People to Use to Kill themselves in an Assisted Suicide,” by Micaiah Bilger, they mix a white liquid with a combination of “phenobarbital, chloral hydrate and morphine sulfate in powdered form, which can be mixed with water, alcohol, juice or applesauce, according to the report. Wood said the new drugs taste worse, burn the mouth and may take longer to work than the more expensive drugs.”
Morphine is used to suppress the person’s breathing. Increased levels of morphine shut down the kidneys. I saw people grabbing tissues to try to catch drool or throw up. The taste of the liquid is so bitter the workers give people things like chocolate or apple juice to try to settle their stomachs. People start coughing and are asking for water. Eventually, the person goes into a deep sleep, the breathing stops, and then the heart and they’re dead. 45 minutes is the shortest amount of time it takes to complete the process. The process can take up to 48 hours or more depending on the person’s immune system. For one person I read about, the process took an entire week! I saw loved ones crying as they watched their loved one slowly die. It’s horrible!
If that’s not enough for you, often they market assisted suicide as a peaceful death. However, an article titled “Assisted suicide cannot promise you a peaceful or painless death,” by Lani Candelora, indicates that’s not true! “It can include gasping, muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, panic, confusion, failure to produce unconsciousness, waking from unconsciousness, and a failure to cause death.
The most comprehensive study on clinical problems with assisted suicide was conducted over a six-year period in the Netherlands, where assisted suicide has been legal for many years. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Feb. 12, 2000. It found that more than 18 percent of assisted suicides experienced problems severe enough to cause a doctor to step in and euthanize the patient. In at least 14 percent of assisted suicides the patient had problems with completion including waking up from a coma, not becoming comatose, and patients not dying after becoming comatose. Another seven percent of assisted suicides reported muscle spasms, extreme gasping for air, nausea, and vomiting.
Even assisted suicide advocate, Cynthia Barret, slipped up and discussed with the press a failed assisted suicide case where the patient was taken to a Portland ER and revived.”
Don’t all those side effects sound frightening and painful? Why would anyone want to put their body through any of that? What if it doesn’t work? To me, it sounds riskier to die than to live! I don’t like going to doctors in the first place and I have a weak gag reflex, so I’d throw up real fast. That would be a really unpleasant way to end my life. I’d rather just push through the hardships in life, let my experiences make me stronger, and pass that “dangerous wisdom” on to my friends and family. If I ever do get a terminal illness and the doctors tell me I only have six months to live, I’d rather just spend as much time as I can living. Doctors didn’t think I’d make it out of the nursery, but I did. I’ve been a fighter all my life, why would I stop fighting until the very end? Life is an adventure! Don’t miss a minute!
As Louisa’s mom says before she goes to the clinic to see Will one more time, “It’s no better than murder.” Well said! My former aide in high school used to say, “Suicide is just a permanent solution to temporary problems.” So true!
Thirdly, it really bothers me how despite all the fun Will and Louisa have together, Will is just not going to change his mind. It takes a special person to hang out and accept someone like Will. I know that from experience. Here he’s got an extraordinary friendship, someone who is willing to take him places and accept him the way he is even with all his physical limitations, and he’s just going to throw it away because he doesn’t want her to be strapped down by it. That’s all he can think about. At the clinic, Louisa says, “You really are the most impossible man Traynor.” To which he replies, “And the world will definitely be a much better place without me.”
UGH! See the painting above with the tire tracks? I made it myself with my wheelchair at Joni and Friends Family Retreat in 2012 at Calvary Chapel Bible College and Conference Center in Murrieta California. Tommy Hollenstein was the name of the guy who led the workshop. He broke his neck in a bicycling accident in 1985 and became a quadriplegic. Something he loved doing with his hands, he now does with his wheelchair. He’s a wheelchair artist! Until I went to Family Retreat that year, I’d never seen such a thing! I really enjoyed painting with my wheelchair! Tommy Hollenstein shares his talent and inspires others. I’ve heard and seen many stories of people like Tommy Hollenstein who have become disabled as the result of an accident. I’m not saying adjusting to a new lifestyle is easy, but they’re still able to find a way to do the things they love differently such as art. I know there’s a lot a person can do even with a disability. It’s a shame Will couldn’t figure that out. This movie encourages people with disabilities to think about dying. I was very disappointed in that. It made me want to think about making my own movie. I could make an autobiography about everything I’ve done including my first ballet recital and more. I’d call it, Danger Is My Middle Name. It would show people I do have moments of depression and sadness, but also how to overcome obstacles and live. Attitude really is a little thing that makes a big difference!
Finally, I was born with my cerebral palsy. While it’s not quite the same for me as in the movie, I do know what it’s like to deal with physical changes in my body. As I’ve gotten older, I’m not able to walk as far as I used to. I just got over a bone infection on my right foot in my big toe after having two surgeries. It’s been a year and a half. I’m just now starting to get back on my feet and be able to use my walker again. Having physical limitations and relying on people can be frustrating. Through the years, I’ve lied in bed at night many times and thought, Lord, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t handle cerebral palsy. Can’t you just bring me home to heaven now? He’s the one who gave me life and He can take it away.
Job 14:5 says, “A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” Even in the instance of a terminal illness, I still believe God is in charge even in that situation. Nothing that happens to me is a surprise to Him. In Psalm 139, the ending part of verse 16 says, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” When someone takes their own life for any reason at all, they’re playing God telling Him He made a mistake. As I’ve said many times, God NEVER makes mistakes! He doesn’t say, “Oops, I didn’t see that one coming.”
You may ask, “Why would God allow a person to go through a terminal illness?” I don’t understand everything God allows. His ways are mysterious. I do know some things are not meant for humans to understand here on earth but in heaven for those who are true Christ-Followers. While God hates suffering, He loves how it brings us closer to Him. Have you ever noticed when you’ve been sick even with the common cold, you slow down and appreciate the little things in life like family more? Anything that’s going to teach us more about Him pleases Him. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It’s when we are weak that God is strong. That’s when we depend on Him the most. Suffering gives us a better testimony as it helps us relate more to others so we can lead them to Christ. It displays God’s goodness at its best. Jesus never said life would be easy and trouble-free. Look at what He endured on the cross. John 16:33b says, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”
Amen! Lord, thank you for sending your son to die for me. In the midst of hard times, help me to endure trials the same way He endured them with courage. Even when I feel like it, help me to not give up and continue living dangerously for you! Thank you that you promise to never leave me nor forsake me and be there with me every step of the way. YOU ARE SO GOOD TO ME