The Day I Watched a Man Die


I watched a man die once. It was not an experience I’ve ever wanted to repeat again. He was a quiet, pleasant patient whom I had taken care of a few times since he had been placed within our unit. That day, my friend was his nurse. She called me in to come help her, stating he was having difficulty breathing. Sure enough, he was in his recliner gasping for breath. As she ran to grab non-rebreather mask (a step up from your typical 02 mask), things went downhill quickly. I didn’t have enough time to even call another nurse into the room with me before I knew I had to call a code. Thankfully, a physical therapy assistant was in the room with me, and helped me lift him onto the bed so I could start CPR.

Things spiraled downward from there. Sadly, he didn’t make it even after the code team arrived and worked on him for an hour. The sheer amount of medical personnel in the room, from the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapist, chaplain, hospital managers… everyone working frantically to save his life…I couldn’t help but think that this alone showed the extremely high value of his life.

It was a sad day for us on the unit. We had all liked him; my nursing friend who had been taking care of him wondered if she had done something wrong (she clearly had not.) I wondered if there was something more I could have done. The nursing students on the floor that day prepared his body, and hated it. His life obviously had worth, and everyone recognized it.

You might see where I am going with this. Someone made in the image of God had died, and it wasn’t a good thing, regardless of his age, socioeconomic status, gender, race, closeness to his family, or knowledge of his personal history. Death is not a good thing.

And now, looking back on this, I wonder, if we cannot measure the worth of a life based on the things listed above, how on earth we can measure the worth of someone’s life based on location, whether they are out of the womb or in it. Whether they have taken their last breath, or haven’t even taken their first yet. Is that really what gives someone worth? Do we really believe that? Does the baby currently in my womb have any less significance or humanity than I do?

Clearly not.

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Psalm 22:9-10

The significance, worth and beauty of a person is not defined by the government, by society, by culture, or by us. It’s not defined by whether you have an extra chromosome, whether you see the world in the same way the normative culture does, whether you are Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, white or black, short or small, fat or skinny.

It’s defined by God, the one who entered a woman’s womb as a tiny cluster of cells, whose heart started beating at 11 days after conception, whose brain began to develop at 6 weeks, who had eyelids at 10 weeks, who could hear Mary’s voice at 19 weeks…all up until the point he burst into the world to save it, to lay down his own life, and caused Death itself to work backwards. He would show that life has sanctity by giving his own willingly, just as he willingly took on the form of a small, unborn baby.

I won’t forget what watching a man die did to me. It reminded me that all life is precious and worth saving, regardless of what the culture or the law says otherwise. Let God be true though every man be a liar.

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