Some towns are so small that their “Welcome to ______” and “Now Leaving _____” are posted on the same sign. Well, that sign is like my life. While some people measure their lives in decades, I measured mine in seconds. You see, the day I took my first breath was also the day I breathed my last.
So, I never got to meet my family. I never had a first day at school. I never played baseball, took piano lessons, learned to drive a car, or went to prom. My life was so short that I really never knew this world at all. I had come and gone in the blink of an eye. But the grave has a way of maturing you, giving you perspective beyond your experiences. And since I’ve had time to process my thoughts, I’ve decided to write down what’s on my heart.
On Monday, a jury convicted the man who murdered me. Ironically, he wasn’t found guilty because of my death, but because of three other kids who were just like me. He ended their lives in precisely the same way that he had ended mine, but for whatever reason my death was not accounted for. Maybe, because I tend to be soft-spoken, I didn’t scream out as loud as they had. Maybe I didn’t squirm as much as they had. At least yelling and flailing would show that I’m somewhat viable. Yep, I should have yelled more and squirmed more. That was my fault.
Or perhaps the doctor was not held responsible for my death because those other kids were just a little older than I was. After all, there’s a big difference between being 24 weeks old and being 25 weeks old, right? Maybe if I would have been just a couple days older, the jury would have viewed me differently. Though I can’t be certain because I never had a chance to go to medical school, I’m guessing that something biologically magical happens on the 168th day that turns inanimate fetal tissue into a developing, ambulatory human child. Don’t ask me how it happens, but I’m pretty sure you go from a chewed up piece of bubble-gum to a little person overnight.
It stands to reason, then, that using real scissors to clip what appears to be a neck on what appears to be a child while that which appears to be a child appears to be moving and appears to be screaming can’t be murder. It’s only tissue. It’s only a procedure. Yep, it was my fault. I was too young to be a person.
Or maybe (and this makes me a little sad) my life wasn’t as important as theirs. I’ve noticed that this world is filled with winners and losers, haves and have-nots. I guess I happened to be on the bottom rung. The jurors had to see something lacking in my life that led them to make the decision they did. I just wish I would have known what it was that made me less than human so I could have tried to fix it. Sadly, it was my fault for not working harder on this.
Actually, I’m just venting. If there’s anything I have learned since I was murdered, it’s that my life was significant even if my mother didn’t want me. I’ve learned that my life had meaning even if lawyers call me fetal tissue. I’ve learned that life begins a lot sooner than the legal system says it does. And, most importantly, I’ve learned that I know a lot more about life than the doctor who took mine from me.
James Hansen co-wrote this column. He is teaching pastor at Antioch Bible Church and academic dean of Imago Dei Institute.