Mercy: [mur-see] noun, compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power; compassion, pity, or benevolence. Just last week I asked for mercy in the confessional, knowing that though I would promise to try to avoid sin in the future, inevitably I would sin again. I will be asking for mercy until the day I die. In fact, I suspect I will be asking for mercy WHEN I die. We all need mercy.
This week, in an effort to cleanse my soul and my life in preparation for the new year, I extended a sort of mercy or forgiveness to some people I have, in some cases, long harbored resentment towards for wrongs they had committed against me. The thing about mercy is that often we humans don't think we need it. The response to one of my merciful gestures was anger and pride -- and an accusation that maybe I was proud and self righteous myself for reaching out. Which made me think maybe I was. At what point is mercy or forgiveness something we keep within our hearts, and when do we need to express mercy out loud, for, well, the mercy of the person we are reaching out to?
While I was handing out forgiveness and forgetfulness, I sought forgiveness from some people I had wronged as well. I suspect I will never hear back from them, but hey, I asked. Forgiveness and mercy are trickier issues than I had ever realized. They only seem to get trickier as I get older, as I realize how short life can be (a lesson I thought I had learned well already, but one that seems to require constant refreshers).
An afternoon of (trying) to make amends had me feeling as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders, which became weighed down once again as I caught in my Facebook newsfeed a huge backlash of a response to an episode of Harry's Law on NBC, which aired on Wednesday December 7, 2011. One of the plots of the episode involved a mother on trial for the murder of her three-day old anencephalic baby. The anencephalic community was distraught over a comment made comparing anencephalic babies to a houseplant. We peppered Harry's Law's Facebook page with stories of just how alive our children were. We shook our fingers at NBC for using anencephaly, a little-understood neural tube defect, to gain ratings, and for seizing the opportunity to make a dollar while neglecting their opportunity to educate viewers about an often misunderstood disease.
But another aspect of the show niggled at me, one that maybe I understand in a way that is different from other mothers because of the length of time I had with Gabriel. By the end of the episode the nurse is revealed as the actual murderer, having broken the baby's neck as an act of mercy. The nurse alleged that the baby's death would otherwise be painful and slow. Breaking the baby's neck would be more dignified.
Which makes me wonder, who the hell asked Nurse Angel-Of-Death for her brand of mercy anyway? Where do these twisted ideas of dignity come from? I watched Gabriel's life slip away on HIS terms. He fought as long as HE wanted to. And it was not a quick death, because his body still clearly wanted to live. It is our most base instinct, to keep breathing, to keep living. I plead with God to take Gabriel from his pain, flooded with mixed emotions because as much as I didn't want to see him hurt, I didn't want to let him go either. Never, not once, did I consider taking his life into my own hands. His death was inevitable, but at the end of my life if someone says I can have ten more days, ten more hours, even ten more minutes, I want them. I have complete faith that a more beautiful life awaits us, but a beautiful world holds us here too. One more sunrise, one more summer day, I want it all and like my son, I will not go without a fight. When mercy means the taking of a life, mercy is simply not ours to give.
The baby in Harry's Law was not given a name. I haven't seen the episode myself yet (and will remedy any inaccuracies I have stated here, when I do), but no one that has can tell me if the baby was a boy or a girl. The episode simply wasn't that personal.
But my son has a name. Gabriel Michael Gerard Cude.
And there are more like him, and they have names, and birthdays, and angel days too: Carys Rainn, Elizabeth, KayLynn, Gracie Beth, Karys, Noella, Anouk, Carleigh, Faith Hope, Leilani, Blessing, EmmaLynn Grace, Emma Edith, Paige Miracle, Kelly, Tess, Fiona, Gianna, Valentina, Riley, Gabrielle Renee, Palmer, Theo, Christopher, Rafael, Thomas, Loren, Kolton Sage, Samuel, and many, many more are the faces of anencephaly. They lived. They were loved. They will never be forgotten.