Quality of Life and a Life of Quality PDF Print E-mail
Written by P.J. Southam   

quality of lifeThe Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches us that life has a purpose and a meaning: to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Another way of saying that would be "to love God and to be loved by God." Since the Great Commandment is to love God with everything in us, and to love our neighbors, I believe that we can evaluate how well we have fulfilled our purpose in life by how well we have loved God and loved our neighbors.A commonly heard term is "quality of life." People who use this term seem to equate quality of life with what someone can get from this world. I believe that a life of quality is one which loves God and loves others. I believe it is a false notion to separate quality of life from a life of quality.

pickup-quoteI recently had the privilege of hearing a talk by Mark Pickup. *Mr. Pickup is a triplegic from Edmonton, Alberta. He was an athlete and musician. In his twenties he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Now, three decades later, he gets around in a wheelchair, and only has limited use of his left arm. In his talk he spoke about grieving what he had lost when he began losing the use of his muscles. Perhaps the loss which caused him the most sadness was not being able to play guitar. He spoke about being very angry, and sawing his guitar in half. At the time Mr. Pickup believed that if he could no longer create music then his life was diminished and had less "quality."

The same afternoon that I heard Mr. Pickup speak I also heard a talk from Mary Kellett. Mrs. Kellett and her husband had ten children already when they learned that she was pregnant with the eleventh. This child, whom they named Peter, was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 (t-18). Mrs. Kellett told us that she was pressured to abort her son, and after he was born, to deny him medical treatment. Doctors and nurses told her that her son would not have a good "quality" of life. Peter lived longer than the two weeks doctors told her he would only live. In fact, Peter lived several years. (Some people with t-18 live into their thirties.) Peter was ring bearer at three of his sister's weddings. One sister said that Peter was the most loving person she ever knew, and that she learned what it meant to give love to others from Peter. Another sister said that her own children are not afraid to make contact and engage people with disabilities because of knowing their uncle Peter. What Peter was able to give to others convinces me that while he lived, he lived a life of quality.

Mark Pickup said in his talk that "What gives my life quality is the ability to love and be loved." His quality of life is measured by living a life of quality – in loving others and in being loved. As a husband, father and grandfather Mr. Pickup has family members that he loves, and who love him. As a speaker and blogger Mr. Pickup teaches others about meaning in suffering, and the worth and dignity of all human life. Before he died of a botched appendectomy Peter Kellett taught others about loving and being loved, about sacrificial care of the vulnerable, and the divine good in relationships and human interaction with those who are not exactly like us. All the good in these two lives, all of the meaning and purpose and love would have been lost if these two had not been allowed to live. Disabilities can enhance our own ability to love. When thinking about "quality of life" my prayer is that we will not diminish our own "quality of life" by not loving and being loved by those vulnerable ones that are also our neighbors.

* Mr. Pickup and Mrs. Kellett were speakers at the First National Symposium on Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide, held in Minneapolis on Saturday, May 2, 2014. This symposium was conducted by The Human Life Alliance.

MarkPickup blogpicFor more information about Mark Pickup, read his blog.

You can find out more about Peter Kellett here.

Rev. P.J. Southam is pastor of Big Creek Presbyterian Church in Hannibal, MO, and is a member of the Board of Directors of PPL



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