V is for Value of Life


522396_476019472472100_180517309_nYes, I’m still working my way through the A-Z blog challenge posts, but I’m almost there, darn it all! Since there’s been so much talk recently about abortion and right-to-life and pro-life and pro-choice and all that, I wanted to talk a little bit today about the Value of Life. Now, before you think you know where this is going, please stick with me, because it’s not what you think it’s going to be. Promise.

First, I’ll start with the upfront abortion issue, since that’s always such a calm, peacefully discussed topic of conversation these days. I don’t know anyone who is pro-abortion. I don’t know anyone who is going out to say people should have abortions left and right just for the fun of it. Even people who are pro-choice can be pro-life, that is, FOR life, but still think that a woman shouldn’t have her body legislated. That all said, I am pro-choice. I say that right now while I sit here typing this and realize that I am so very much pro-life for myself. I want to live. I have a right to live. I get angry every time I think that my life might be cut short from this illness, and it’s not like I made a choice. So yeah, I’m pro-my-life for sure.


I was browsing around the internet today and came upon a post about a woman who was a surrogate–she used a couple’s donor egg and donor sperm to carry a baby that was in zero part biologically her own child–and the baby she was carrying had some defects, so the biological parents wanted her to terminate the pregnancy. Now, to be completely fair here, the defects the baby had were quite severe. She would be born with an immediate need for surgeries, would have numerous facial and body deformities, and might never be able to walk, talk, eat, or even possibly breathe completely on her own. For all the parents knew at this point, she might not even survive long, but if she did, it would be with multiple, painful, long, agonizing and expensive surgeries. They, who already had three children, two of whom were already special needs kids, wanted to terminate. The surrogate did not want to terminate.

There is a lot more to this story and some of the minor details I might be getting wrong. We never get the whole picture when we read things on the news sites and watch them on TV. I am not sharing this because of the story itself. I will refrain from any judgement in public about what I think she or the parents should or shouldn’t have done. There were many mistakes made here, lack of communication and a sad situation for all involved, and I can only be grateful it wasn’t a situation I had to make a choice about myself, ’cause I can’t imagine making choices like that.

All that said, in reading about this story, I read a lot of the comments from the internet denizens who felt they had to comment. And it was one of the comments I read that made me start to think. That comment, coupled with something my son to me a while back, and then with something else my sister said to my son about me, and I started thinking about this ‘value of life’ thing. Stick with me.

First, what the commenter said was in response to someone who said that the woman should have had the abortion, terminated the pregnancy, done what the parents wanted, and moved on with her life. Their justification was that the child would have no quality of life because she would be in pain all the time, have to have multiple painful surgeries, never be able to experience a normal life and die an early and agonizing death, so her life had no value and was nothing but a drain on society and taxpayers and insurance premiums, and that it was pure selfishness of the surrogate to want to keep the baby.

Wait a minute.

The child would be in pain all the time. (I am in pain all the time.)

Would have to have multiple, painful, expensive medical treatment. (I have to have multiple, often painful, expensive medical treatment and a massive surgery coming up–I hope.)

She would never experience a normal life. (My life is far from normal, in large part because of my health.)

She will die early. (I will die earlier than I should.)

It will be an agonizing death. (People with CHF and CTEPH don’t die pleasant, peaceful deaths.)

So… my life has no value either? It’s pure selfishness on my part to want to be alive, costing the taxpayers money and insurance premiums to be higher, because I am sick? I should, what, just kill myself now?

Please understand, this is coming from someone who is pro-choice. I truly am. But… when this person made these comments, and I equated them to my life, why is an unborn person’s life of no value and can just be aborted/terminated, but it’s against the law to terminate or abort my life? Does the value of life change as we age? Insurance companies say it does, up to a point, and then when we get older, it decreases in value. Seriously. A person who dies in the prime of their life, middle age, will get larger life insurance payments (presumably to replace the wage-earning income they would have brought into the family) than someone who is just a child or who is elderly–because the insurance company has to place a value on a life like that.)

It’s true. When I worked in crime victim advocacy, Crime Victims Compensation frequently had to place a value on body parts, functionality lost and human life. A child under X age was worth 10-20k, while an adult might be worth 50k. An arm on a functioning adult is worth as much as a ten-year-old child. Three people all die, a mom, a daughter, a grandmother, and all three will have their life ‘valued’ at different rates.

Who determines value of life?

I heard in England that quality of life is often assessed when determining medical treatment. There’s that somewhat well-known story of the woman who petitioned to get a hip replacement, but because she was in her mid-80s, they denied her, because she was too old for the ‘quality of life’ to be influenced that much. How do you tell someone the quality of their life isn’t worth as much as someone else’s quality of life? Isn’t that the same as saying one life, or one quality of life, has more value than another?

So who gets to decide whether someone’s life has value? Does that person get to do it?

The family who adopted the baby girl, who was not aborted, by the way, says she smiles, makes noises, follows sounds, recognizes faces and her siblings, and loves when people sing to her. She bounces up and down on people’s knees and can be soothed and comforted and eats and does other things. No, she can’t crawl or sit up right or talk at this point (she’s about a year old, I think), but she’s brought joy to her family. Yes, she’s had painful surgeries and procedures. But that doesn’t mean her life doesn’t have value, add value, or that she has no quality of life.

Back to my son:

My son once said to me, in a moment of profound honesty, that when he sees all I have to go through, how hard it is, how much I struggle, how painful it sometimes is, how scary the medical stuff is, etc. He asked, “Why would you want to live with all that?” And the answer is simple, because I don’t want to die. My life still has value. While the quality of my life has changed, I wouldn’t trade the sound of his voice, the smile on his face, the licking of my toes by dog, the chirp of my bird, the touch of my love’s hand, the sound of my family’s voices, the taste of the food I can eat, the feel of the sunlight on my face, the sound of music, the scent of vanilla candle… the stories I write in my head and on paper. Even if I could never again get up out of that bed, I have a brain, a body (that might fail me sometimes) and memories that keep me going and yes, a future to look forward to. It’s not the one I wanted, not the one I had dreamed about, but it’s the one I’ve got and I’m going to hang on to it with all I have.

Then my sister:

Last week, she apparently told my son that she knows why I got to fancy restaurants and visit lots of fancy places and see shows and go to concerts and try gourmet foods and stuff like that. Why? Because I’m going to die soon, and I want to have all these experiences!

What an absolutely horrible thing to say, or even insinuate, to an 18-year-old who just finished high school and still lives with his ill mother! I haven’t even bothered to address this with her, but I did address it with my son.

And if any of you want to know why I like gourmet food and enjoy going to concerts and shows, it’s true–I want to have all these experiences. But it’s not because I’m sick and am going to die soon. It’s because having been sick, I see how precious life truly is, and I know that life is for living, experiencing, tasting, touching, loving, sharing, caring NOW! There is no guarantee of tomorrow. I could have died any time in my life between then and now, and imagine how much I would have missed! Life isn’t about keeping your head down and never looking at the view around you. I want the view. And if that means I’m lying in a hospital bed barely able to hold my head up when the thunderstorms roll in on the ocean in the Gulf, well, then I’ll just have someone hold my head up for me so I can look out the window and watch the lightning. If that means I have to type sideways in bed because I’m in pain but I can work on my novel and help take my mind off of it, then I hope my editor is ready with the red pen to fix my typos.

And if that means I choose to spend a little bit of money on a gourmet meal at a fancy restaurant one month instead of putting more money into savings, and I can afford to do it with my bills being paid and no one else is supporting me, giving or loaning me or my family to do it, and I’m not being supported by taxpayers, then whose business is it?

I plan to LIVE my life. I’m not dying… I’m dying to live, remember? It’s the name of the blog!

But the point is, no one has any right to tell someone else what value their life has or doesn’t have. And though I am pro-choice, I don’t think someone who isn’t part of a situation has a right to assign any value to the life of an unborn baby. It’s not their choice to make. And my son, bless his heart, should know that just having my kids is enough to make my life have value–that HE is a big part of the reason I do value my life so much. And my sister…. well, maybe one day she’ll realize that the reason I feel, even as sick as I am, that my life has so much value is because I take the time to put the value into it. I do what I love, with the people I love, and I couldn’t ask for much more than that.

Well, except, maybe, wouldn’t mind too terribly much doing that while healthy–but yeah, it is what it is. And I do believe there’s a reason for everything. Wish I knew what it was, but while I’m working on figuring it out, that doesn’t mean my life doesn’t have value.

Believe me, I value my life.

So my question is, while you still have your health, your future, you whole rest of your life in front of you, do you value your life? Does your life mean something to you? Does your life have meaning, both because and for you?

Because, my friends, it can all be gone, faster than you can imagine. Tomorrow, everything could change. There may not even be a tomorrow… and where would you be then? What would you have to show for the value of your life? Are you doing what you love with the people you love? If not, why not?

Quit dying. Start living.

Love and stuff,



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...



6 Responses to “V is for Value of Life”

  1. Dawn says:

    Hi Michy,
    I was so moved by your post. I have just lost my nephew, a wonderful young man with 3 kids who fought cancer for 3 years before losing the battle. His determination to live every minute has inspired me and your words reinforce the lesson his life has given us. Here is a poem he wrote before he died and left for his wife and children:

    I cant rewrite the past.
    That story is written.
    The words engraved.
    But my future is an open chapter.
    Why does it take you to die to start living?

    Im living on a six foot high.
    Im just addicted to life.
    If this is my final day I want it to count rather than pay.
    I cant run from the pain
    I must turn and face it again.
    We still got a life to live.
    Dont cry my children – it will be alright in the morning
    Learning to fly is easy
    Falling down is the hardest thing
    Stay young my child the days not done
    The suns still up the night to come
    Everyday is beautiful when you are dying.

    • Michy says:

      Beautiful sentiment. I am so honored and touched that you shared that with me. My condolences to your family and you for the loss of a beautiful life. I believe with all my heart that ‘this’ life isn’t all there is. I don’t know what else there is after this life, but I feel absolutely certain in my heart and soul that your nephew is somewhere living–just living a different type of life now.

      Thank you so much for your comment. I put a lot of myself into this post and it took me two weeks to write it, because of that. I’m glad it touched someone!

  2. Paula Shene says:

    This is an article which had me tearing up, in emphathy and agreement. I had many choices to make throughout my life and while now, like you, I look on life, its trials, its joys, as a full to the brim, please, experience, when in my twenties and thirties, found it too difficult to bear.

    When I was thirty-seven I had the first of three strokes. The first was a major one with complications, one of which was having my heart stop and experiencing a ‘near death’ – I saw my body, I heard the doctor say “She’s gone.” I turned and really, really, really did speed towards a light, where I was told it was not my time and to go back. I pleaded to stay. I argued life was too hard. I was directed back. I then saw my body jerking from the paddles and the doctor saying ‘She’s back.” My life turned at that point – needing to regain my functionalities and speech while my brain worked and my tongue and body rebelled.

    I saw the beauty in the raindrop, the myriad of colors surrounding me in nature, and the love and relief on my husband’s and son’s faces. Had I known, I still was facing two more strokes, and two bouts of breast cancer, I would still have accepted the new ‘lease on life’ I not only was granted, but now looked on the hardships as challenges. The one point, and I think this is the main one, with you as well – each moment is precious, to love, to live, to cherish – no living in the past or future. Now is it, and it is glorious. We all need that choice.

    • Michy says:

      Yes, absolutely — NOW! Living in the now is the only way to go. Nothing changes the past; the future isn’t written in stone; NOW is all we have.

      It’s a lesson I wish I had learned sooner–and easier too, but…

      Thank you for sharing your heart with me!

  3. Beautifully said my friend. I am appalled at your sister’s behavior though.

    I read this just when I needed it. I was feeling sorry for myself. but I am alive.

    • Michy says:

      It’s okay to sometimes feel sorry for yourself. Just don’t let it make you miss all the good around you while you’re doing it. Sure, you broke your foot–but it’ll heal! It WILL heal! And then you can dance!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2012 - All Rights Reserved by Michelle Devon