Grace, life’s endings, abortion, health care, etc…

Some thoughts to begin your weekend:

1. Steven Waldman over at Beliefnet has a very touching piece this morning about Last Suppers. There’s been much chatter about the inclusion in health care reform of financial reimbursement to doctors who discuss end-of-life plans with Medicare patients. Anyone who has an elderly family member could have had the convo already, drilling down with Mom or Dad about just how much medical intervention she/he might or might not want. It is messy talk, this death stuff, but necessary the experts say. Waldman reflects on how Kennedy (according to NYTimes reports) wanted to have a good ending to his life, by which he meant doing things he loved for as long as he could, and then discusses what his good ending might look like. The post is good food for thought, good reflection on intentional living – and dying. I encourage everyone to read it.

Also worth a look on Waldman’s page, is this post on fact-checking the fact-checkers on the whole “abortion and health care” discussion. His bottom line is the same as mine: Neither those who say it is clearly included in talked-about bills or clearly excluded in that same proposed legislation are accurate. The devil, as they say, is in the details.

3. I’m working my way through a number of books right now (like the commercial for potato chips, I can never read just one book), one of which is Cathleen Falsani’s “Sin Boldly – A field Guide for Grace.” Falsani is the religion columnist for the Chicago Sun Times and is both a deft religion reporter and a sparkling writer. (Follow her Twitter feed here.) She’s said her goal in reporting is to try to find God in the places some people say God isn’t supposed to be. I really love that idea, perhaps because I’ve experienced grace through people others would judge as empty of that virtue. “Sin Boldly” is a collection of stories about Falsani’s experience with grace, which she describes as “getting what you absolutely don’t deserve.” A snippet explaining why she wrote the book:

“Why grace? …Because it’s the oxygen of religious life, or so says a musician friend of mine, who tells me, ‘Without it, religion will surely suffocate you.’ Because so many of us are gasping for air and grasping for God, but fleeing from a kind of religious experience that has little to do with anything sacred or gracious.

“… Life is beautiful and I’m an idiot who doesn’t deserve any of it. But that’s the thing about grace. … People regularly ask me why I believe in God. The simple answer – and it’s MY answer, i.e., it may not be YOUR answer and that’s OK – is grace. As I understand it: justice is getting what you deserve. mercy is not getting what you deserve. And grace is getting what you absolutely don’t deserve.”

I’ve thought about that last line a lot since Ted Kennedy died. People want to condemn him for his excesses, his mistakes, his crime. Perhaps they are right, but I cannot stand in judgment because I  know how sinful I am. I know that, there but for the grace of God … Life is all about choices, some good, some horrible, and most of us don’t have our mistakes played out on the public stage. But as Pope John Paul II said at World Youth Day many years ago, ” We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us…” Or, as Falsani says on her blog, The Dude Abides, Kennedy was “so much more than his mistakes.” She cuts him no slack on Chappaquiddick, saying neglecting to report the accident until the next morning was “A reckless and selfish act of cowardice to be sure.”

But then she points out what others admire about the man: Kennedy refused to be defined by his mistakes, refused to be destroyed by the “litany of despair” that plagued the Kennedy family. I don’t know how many readers have had to endure the violent loss of a family member through homicide or suicide, or how many have had to deal with addictions in themselves or close family members, or how many have had to bury children or neices/nephews. Those things can kill you inside and many of us who have gone through those things barely make it through the day, much less spend our lives trying to make the world a better place (to make up for our sins? to honor the deaths of the loved ones?) like Kennedy did. Falsani again:

None of us wants to be reduced to the sum total of our mistakes, deadly or otherwise. Yet, it’s uncommon to be able to rise above them, without becoming paralyzed by guilt or regret, and devote your life to making the world a more just place.

Read her whole post here and see why some people can’t help but grieve the loss of the Lion of the Senate.

Lila Rose - the new face of the anti-abortion movement?
Lila Rose - the new face of the anti-abortion movement?

4. And for those who think the anti-abortion-rights movement is made up of old white guys (because, seriously, doesn’t it seem like they are the ones talking the loudest on everything???), you might want to read this . Lila Rose is her own one-person investigative team taking on Planned Parenthood, and some say, she’s the future of the movement. There are some women’s rights advocates who don’t understand the younging-up of the anti-abortion rights movement, but I think it all has to do with sonograms. When you’ve got women who are not even two months preggers are posting their sonogram pictures on Facebook and sending it out to friends, it becomes harder and harder to convince young women who see those pictures that the fetus inside them is “just a bunch of cells.” Here’s Rose’s organization’s Web page, for those who might be interested, courtesy of Matthew Warner over at Fallible Blogma.

5. Finally, since this is a God Blog, I’d like to point you over to another TC.com blogger, who has tips for writing a spiritual memoir. Have a good weekend, and remember to celebrate life.

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