“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Sunday, December 22, 2013


St. Olaf Chapel Choir singing John Rutter's What Sweeter Music.[1]  Click on image below or this link  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ttuj3WhUowA

[1] St. Olaf Chapel Choir, St. Olaf Collage of the Lutheran Church of Minnesota.


The longest night of  2013 is over!  I was awakened by the family's old mantle clock striking 9:00 this morning at the other end of the house.[1] I slept in. The warm mountain of blankets on my bed made it hard to get up. I thought about a line in Kenneth Grahame's classic children's book The Wind in the Willows.

"In the winter time the Rat slept a great deal, retiring early and rising late. During his short day he sometimes scribbled poetry or did other small domestic jobs about the house; and, of course, there were always animals dropping in for a chat, ..."

It was time for this rat to get up!

I threw off my bed-covers, put on my slippers and dressing gown and went to the kitchen. The morning was bright, still and sunny (so common with deep Arctic fronts.) The temperature outside was minus 27 C! Brrr. Inside, the fireplace was cold and dark and the house had a chill. I would not be venturing out with my electric wheelchair to the church at the top of the hill. 

My fellow-Christians who dared the cold this December morning would pray at the church that the Lord would hear our collective prayer:

"For the Church, called as Mary was, to give Christ to the world, we pray to the Lord:"

"For the world's children, born and unborn, signs of God's gift of life, we pray to the Lord:"

"For people in our midst who reach out for your love and our hope, we pray to the Lord:"

"For us, God's people gathered here, called to bring the presence of Christ to each other, we pray to the Lord."

I could not be with them in person, but I was in spirit. I regret not being able to receive Communion this morning, but Christ's presence is still with me. 


My wife's grandfather was a jeweler/clock maker of the old school. As a small boy I remember passing his little prairie store and gazing in the window at the Christmas display of watches, clocks, a miniature winter village that adorned his shop window each year. In 1930 he gave grandmother the mantle clock for their wedding.   

Saturday, December 21, 2013


It's bitterly cold in Canada: December 21st is the longest night of the year, particularly in this part of the northern hemisphere where I live. 

The fireplace you see behind my picture at the top of the blog has a roaring fire warming my home. My wife is Christmas baking and knitting something for a grandchild. I think I'll settle in with my copy of A Christmas Carol and re-read this classic by Charles Dickens. (It's a custom during the Christmas Season.)

There's a big-screen TV in the living-room; I'm going to put on the following YouTube video of the King's College Choir singing Christmas carols. Listen for yourself by clicking on the image. Enjoy!

Drop temperature, drop! Frost my windows for all I care. I'm cozy inside my little house on this longest night of the year. 

(If you are unable to link below, try here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HItFqKBAQE )


Mary visits Elizabeth
"Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entering the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed art you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord." (Luke 1.39-45)

In this tender and revealing passage of holy Scripture we are given, among other things, a divine glimpse into God's view of the child developing in the womb: In this case John the Baptist in utero. It is clear that God is present with him before he is born and that he responded to the spiritual state of joy at six months gestation (see Luke 1.36). He was human: And in a primordial way, was aware of God's presence with him in his mother's womb!

Liberal Christians who want to support abortion may say that  most abortions occur in the 1st and 2nd trimester of pregnancy and John was more than six months gestation when this happened; the time the angel told Mary of Elizabeth's pregnancy until the two met would have been quite some time with primitive modes of travel. [1] I have heard this rationale.

But the Bible also says many startling things about human life developing in the womb. Almighty God is aware and actively involved in forming new human life even at its very genesis -- that point we call conception when the new life has started but is yet unformed (Psalm 139.15-16). It is God who creates life (see Genesis 1:26-27, Genesis 5.2, Psalm 100.3, Isaiah 43.7.) Humanity is the work of God's hand (Isaiah 64.8, Job 31.15). God's loving hand formed us (Jeremiah 31.4) and sanctifies life in the womb (Jeremiah 1.4-5, Psalm 22.10b). God even mentions the unborn child by name! (Isaiah 49.1-2, 5.) 

Biblical Skeptics are apt to respond by saying God was speaking about spiritual titans like Jeremiah, Isaiah and John the Baptist (I actually heard this comment).  Did Peter not say that with God there is no partiality? (Acts 10.34). Did Paul not say that with God there no partiality? (Romans 2.11) Do we not all have one Father? (Malachi 2.10) 

Liberal skeptics often say that unwanted unborn children will be abused. They don't know that. Do they really think that children who were wanted during pregnancy are never abused? Do you know that God himself addressed this issue?

God told Isaiah:

"Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you, see I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; ..." (Isaiah 49.15-16.) 

The inscription of unwanted unborn children (and every other unwanted human being) are made on the palms of the hands of God-made-man by the nails of the cross.

That is how much value we all have to God. That is why He came to earth. Let us leap for joy like the unborn John within Elizabeth's womb when we sense the presence of Christ is near.  


[1] Liberal Christianity is a bit of a contradiction in terms, particularly in modern applications. Liberal Christianity is really secularism dressed in religious vestments. Groups like Catholics for Choice are not really Catholic at all. The Catholic Church has opposed abortion since the first century; it is one the mortal sins worthy of excommunication. Catholics for Choice are, by definition, heretical. It is interesting to note that W.E. Vines EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORDS (Zondervon, 1981) says this about the origins of the word heresy:

"Heresy - HAIRESIS denotes a choosing, choice (from haireomai, to choose); then that which is chosen, and hence, an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects, Gal.5:20 (marg., "parties"); such erroneous opinions are frequently  the outcome of personal preference or the prospect of advantage ... ." Yup, that pretty much sums up Catholics for Choice.

Monday, December 16, 2013


"Bach is still the benchmark, the musical gold standard."
-- Sir Eliot Gardiner in Bach: A Passionate Life.

It may seem that my past few posts have not had much to do with life issues -- at least on the surface. They do, however, deal with the overall richness in living. Perhaps this apparent departure in my usual writing is rooted in the festive Christmas Season that has captured my heart this cold and wintry Canadian December. 

Sir Eliot Gardiner
I came across an excellent video produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). You will find a link to it at the end of this post. It's a ninety minute program entitled Bach: A Passionate Life. It was hosted by Sir Eliot Gardiner (featured in my previous blog post). He has  great knowledge about Bach's music and his life. His comments about Bach's personality are mere speculations based on little more than hunches. 

Johann Sebastian Bach's music has been an important consoling influence in my 30 year journey with degenerative multiple sclerosis. At times, his music gave soothing articulation to my suffering, my pain and my grief in ways words could not. Bach experienced grief in his life and it is evident in his music. 

At one point in the BBC documentary Eliot Gardiner said that a composer "can channel all the frustration and disappointment into music and Sebastian's music has this wonderful and uplifting quality to it. Most of all, Bach's music offers us a balm of comfort in bereavement." This touches upon what I mean a consoling influence and soothing articulation of my anguish. 

More than grieving the loss of physical function and health, at a certain point in my grief journey, I had to come to grips with a horrible reality. This reality was the realization that my previous self was gone as surely as if he had died. A new self could emerge -- if I would allow it -- and if I was willing to explore and develop that new identity and let it grow in Christ. The growth of that new self cut to the center of my humanity and helped to identify who I was/am and define and refine my destiny as a man and as a child of God.  

Someone else in the program observed in Bach's music an "overwhelming exploration of what it means to be a human being." Bach's depth is breathtaking in breadth, scope and beauty! I am astonished and grateful. 

It was at the apex of my own suffering that Saint John's Passion spoke to me in a profound way about Jesus' suffering, and my own. I did not need to put up my guard because I knew of the composer's profound Christian faith was in his music and that he too had experienced the bitter anguish of loss, although in a different context. It was while listening to music like this and immersing myself in God's word and prayer that I discovered Christ was inviting me in my suffering into His redemptive suffering! 

A person in the video said this about Bach: "He speaks with the voice of someone whose faith is absolutely rock-solid. It goes right to the roots of his being." This is true for Saint John's Passion (1723) as well as Bach's later St. Matthew's Passion (1729).    

Abundant life is the substance of what Christ wants for his followers through faith and a personal daily relationship with Him -- not only in the hereafter but in the present too. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and that they might have it for abundantly."[1] The abundance of which our Lord spoke is a spiritual fulfillment in Him; it finds outward expression in our relationships with others and those things that make us grow spiritually such as healthy modes of expression in the arts.
There are many patterns and structures for this richness of life. The first is the Bible and worship of God through our relationships with Jesus Christ. For me, the second comes in the form of music and an intense personal culture (found internally and externally). This can cultivate growth and beauty within individuals and societies. 

(If you are unable to connect to the video, click below
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiQbppQq54E  )


[1] John 10.10. The prosperity gospel that polluted and  misled many North American churches during the 1980s and 1990s interpreted the abundant life Jesus to which Jesus referred to mean financial wealth. Some went so far as to use financial prosperity to measure the spiritual state of Christians. Happily the spiritual poverty of the prosperity gospel eventually fell into disrepute, although it still can be found in some fringe churches.  

Sunday, December 15, 2013


J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
On this Sunday afternoon, I offer for your listening pleasure, J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio. When I was growing up, I remember this music resonating from my parent's stereo during the Christmas Season.

The video recording below is of Sir Eliot Gardiner conducting the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists performing Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Click on the image, relax and enjoy this 2 hour and 22 minute performance.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Christmas is a joyful time for most people. It can also be a lonely time for people without family, the homeless or those who are forgotten in nursing homes. 

If you are one of those people I want you to consider this: The timeless One stepped into time to settle the problem of sin and evil that separates humanity from God. Why would a perfect and holy God send His son to do that? Because he loves you and wants you to spend eternity with him (see John 3:16). I happen to believe that he would have done that even if you were the only person in history who ever accepted His free gift of salvation. That is how much you are loved dear friend. Click below.

*From Michael W. Smith's 3 CD set "The Ultimate Christmas Collection" -- an indispensable addition to your Seasonal music library. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013


John Keats
John Keats (1795-1821) said, "I have loved the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had time, I would have made myself remembered."

He underestimated the impact of his short life. Although John Keats suffered from tuberculosis and died at the age of 25, he is generally considered to be one of England's greatest poets. His poetry is unparalleled in dignity, melody and sheer richness of imagery.

Attitude of gratitude

Most of us will never be great poets or even remembered for very long after we die. But each of us can, if we choose, "love the principle of beauty in all things." Each of us can perpetuate the ideal of looking for beauty in all things, by setting an example for others.

It's all a matter of how we look at life. If we look for the ugliness in all things we will find it: If we look for the beauty in all things, we will find that too.

I remember sitting before a panoramic view of snow-capped Canadian rocky mountains rising from behind an aquamarine blue lake. It looked heavenly!

A group of nursing home residents were gathered behind me looking at the same breathtaking scene. I heard an attendant say to an old woman sitting in a wheelchair, "Aren't those mountains beautiful, Mrs. Pewe?"

The old woman scowled and replied, "I don't see anything beautiful about them." She turned her wheelchair away from the scene. Mrs. Pewe was aptly named.

Mrs. Pewe was the most pitiable of people not because of her wheelchair or even that she was in ill health. She was pitiable because she refused to see beauty in anything.

If she was blind to majestic mountains that towered up in front of her to declare the splendour of God's creation, how could she possibly see or even detect God's presence in life's daily routines? Her interior poverty was complete.

Does your attitude bring a stench or an aromatic bouquet to the lives of people you encounter or live with? How we respond to that question is like a gauge for the state of our spiritual lives.

Christ is the great liberator and man's ultimate source of joy. If Christ abides in us then joy can be present regardless of our physical state or station in the world. I have experienced this first-hand.

Joy is not dependent upon favourable circumstance or positive experiences. That's happiness. Happiness is a poor imitation of joy. Joy can exist within us despite miserable circumstances. Joy is rooted in our destiny and identity.

Adopt a joy-filled perspective

Joy comes from heaven and is rooted in our relationship to Christ. Joy intensifies the more we are transformed to be like Christ. All life's circumstances can either draw us nearer to Christ or drive us away from him. It depends on how we choose to respond: Do we choose to turn everything that happens to us over to Christ to work out his purpose in our lives?

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul said: "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."

Paul goes on to speak about God transforming us into the image of his Son. In other words, life's circumstances and experiences – be they positive or negative, pleasant or unpleasant – can be used to transform the individual experiencing them to be more like Christ, if the individual loves and trusts God.

When we finally stand before him, and gaze upon his glory as it really is, we shall be overcome with continual and unrestrained joy.

It is easy for modern man to discount the prospect of joy because it's become such a rare thing in the world. But why wouldn't modern man discount the prospect of joy? He denies the very things that can bring real joy to humanity, such as confession and forgiveness of sin, or child-like faith and anticipation of heaven.

C.S. Lewis said, "Joy is the serious business of heaven." And so it is. I have discovered that there are inklings of joy in its anticipation. When we place our hope in Christ and anticipate being with him in the joy of eternity, we will soon discover ourselves looking for the beauty in all things, especially that which is eternal.

The eternal decision

What is eternal? You and me ― and every other human being in the world. The real question facing us all is where will we spend eternity? 

Do not be afraid to acknowledge the existence of heaven and hell. Both Jesus and the Scriptures tell of their existence. In one we will find beauty in all things. In the other, we will find no beauty whatsoever. We have only a short time to decide which it shall be: Christ and heaven or the devil and hell. If you have not already, turn your eyes upon Jesus. He's only a prayer away.

Monday, December 9, 2013


The greatest human tragedy is in not knowing Jesus Christ. There is a Christmas saying: Jesus is the reason for the season. It's true. Christ was born to offer himself as a sacrifice to a Holy God for our sins. The road from Bethlehem led inexorably to Calvary. Through faith in Christ, and repentance, we are reconciled to God. In Christ broken hearts heal. In Christ our griefs and sorrows are comforted. In Christ we find meaning to our lives.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


The HumanLifeMatters blog has surpassed 250,000 hits! Although the readership is primarily American and Canadian, people have visited the HLM blog from around the world. Not only does today mark a major numerical achievement with a quarter of a million hits, it also brings a change in the appearance to the HumanLifeMatters blog and a shift in overall emphasis in content. I will write from a Christian perspective to Evangelicals and orthodox Catholics.

Although I will still continue to deal firmly with critical Life issues such abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and other end of life issues, the HLM blog will also deal with matters of Christian faith. Our only hope as individuals and societies rests in Jesus Christ -- and Him alone. Therefore I will suspend further entries in my other blog http://markpickup.org

A spark of the divine exists within every human being: It is the image and likeness of God of which the Bible speaks.  At the very beginning of creation God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, ..." (Genesis 1.26) The next verse says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created him; male and female he created them." The fact that God spoke in the plural of "us" and "our" foreshadows later references to the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Jesus referred to the Trinity just prior to his ascension: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28.19-20. Emphasis added. Cf. Acts 10.42. Also see 1John 3.23.) What were Jesus' commandments?

  • "A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another, By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if  you love one another." (John 13.34. Also see John 14.15-17, 21, 15.10 & 14.) And how did Christ love us? With a self-sacrificing love (see John 3.16 & 13.4-5, Philippians 2.7-8). Christ's love is inclusive in that all are invited to faith in him and reconciliation with God through repentance and faith in Christ. People may not like you for bearing witness of Christ but they will know you are his disciples. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22.37-39).
  • He told us to forgive one another (see Matthew 11.25 and Luke 11.4. Also see Ephesians 4.32 and Colossians 3.13).
From cover to cover the Bible tells of God's love for humanity and His desire for us to draw nearer to Him in holiness. This is done through a personal, daily relationship with Jesus Christ. And God also cares deeply about our relationships with others and how we live our lives morally.

There is no separation of the "spiritual Gospel" and the "social Gospel" as many Christians tried to maintain in recent decades. Read our Lord's words again from Matthew 22.37-39. 

It is within the tender but firm nurture of the Human Family under the lordship of Jesus Christ that humanity really thrives. We must answer Yes to Cain's ancient question "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4.9)

Our King is Christ. Prepare yourselves fellow Christians to stand for Him against the tide of secularism that is sweeping across the land and permeating our schools, universities and even the halls of power. Our loyalty is to Christ not the pluralism that is dismantling all that previous generations held dear. Let us respectfully and with love stand in firm unison for Christ and a return to a Christian culture. Catholics and Evangelicals please stand together. The hour is late and darkness is descending. Let the light of Christ within you shine forth.


Thursday, December 5, 2013


Children's education has always been an interest for me. Being a
father and now a grandfather, I guess it's natural. The first ten years in a child's life establish the foundations of learning for the rest of their lives. We must never downplay the importance of these formative years.

PBS' Sesame Street has broken ground in educational approaches since its beginnings 44 years ago. They made learning for young children fun. The creators of Sesame Street used every creative tool at their disposal including puppets, animation and music. If repetition or memorization was required they did it with humour, silliness and a spirit of engaging playfulness. Sesame Street was part of my own children's early education experience from 1978-1985.

Now, decades later, Sesame Street still creatively introduces very young children to counting, arithmetic, the alphabet, the natural world, etc. An example is the short segment below about the letter N. It is simple creative brilliance. (The voice accompanying the animation is that of my grandson).


Tuesday, November 26, 2013


What has our society become?! In the undercover video below, you will see presumably decent people at various drug stores helping a statutory rapist (33 year old man) purchase the Plan B pill (the morning after abortion pill) for his under-age girlfriend! The man and girl are actually actors with Students for Life of America, so it's not real. The pharmacies did not know that. The culprit drug stores are CVS in Fort Mill, SC, Walgreen's in Staten Island, NY, Gainseville VA, Stubenville, OH, and Rite Aid in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Horrible, truly horrible.


Saturday, November 23, 2013


LaRee and Mark Pickup
See Mark's latest blog "Contentment in Marriage" at http://markpickup.org 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


The cultural insanity surrounding abortion worsens. The video below shows how minors (15 years old) can buy what has been dubbed "Plan B" contraception or the "morning after pill" without identification but not cold medication without ID. This is the outcome of public policy motivated by ideology rather than the best interests of good public health. -- MDP

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Below is an excellent music video called "This Time". It's about a thirteen years old pregnant girl who gives birth to her baby rather than "solve" her problem by killing her child through abortion. It's based on a true story. I'm sure abortion supporter will decry it.

Sunday, October 27, 2013



Ken Cuccinelli
The link above is to an article by American Life advocates Anna Franzonello and Bill Saunders
entitled "Support for Pregnancy Centers considered "scandal" by NARAL" (National Abortion Rights Action League).  Apparently NARAL dug up new "dirt" that Virginia candidate for Governor, Ken Cuccinelli. His charitable giving includes support to a Crisis Pregnancy Centre that helps women choose life for their babies. Gasp! What a dastardly thing to do! Jail that man and throw away the key. Helping women in crisis pregnancy and their babies is a scandal according to NARAL.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers across America and Canada have helped thousands of women to make life-affirming choices for themselves and their babies. If NARAL: Pro-choice American is really in favour of women having choices about their pregnancies, what is the problem with the choice for life and supportive services that re-enforce that choice? Nothing. But apparently for abortion ideologues only one choice should be actively supported: abortion.

I co-founded one such center in Edmonton (Canada). For nearly thirty years they have been a vital Christian ministry in the community. They are known as the Edmonton Pregnancy Care Centre.  The EPCC provides counselling to abortion inclined women, post-abortive counselling, abstinence education and a number of other services. They provide needed care to women and the community supports them.

Why would any reasonable human oppose helping women not to abort their babies, or give counselling to women and men who regret their abortions, or encouraging young people to abstain from sex until marriage in an era of rampant sexually transmitted infections? Liberals and abortion proponents, that's who. They attack pro-Life pregnancy centers regularly. See my previous blog. It is time these anti-life extremists be exposed and repudiated by people of good will.


Friday, October 18, 2013


Paula Simons
A columnist for the main daily newspaper in the city of Edmonton (Canada) recently wrote an article decrying a non-denominational Christian pregnancy centre giving presentations in public schools. The columnist is an anti-Christian named Paula Simons. 
She wrote with a disparaging tenor about the Edmonton Pregnancy Care Centre providing sex education classes promoting abstinence in the public school system. I expected nothing more from Simons.
Her column was interesting to me for two reasons: 1. As I say, Simons seems to have an anti-Christian bias which I presumed would come out in her column. My suspicion was right. 2. In the 1980s, I co-founded the original organization that became the Edmonton Pregnancy Care Centre. Yes, their foundations are Christian. At the core of those foundations is the abiding principle that all human life is sacred and deserves to be treated with dignity as bearers of the image of God. If that is offensive to Simons, then so be it.

Simons said “the research” shows “teens make wiser decisions when they are prepared for safe sex ― and when they haven’t made idealistic plans to abstain until marriage.” All the research shows that?

While I agree that young people need to be equipped with knowledge about the risks of sex outside marriage, let’s also acknowledge that in an era of rampant sexually transmitted infections there is no such thing as “safe” sex only safer sex.  As far as “idealistic plans” to abstain from sex until marriage, I actually believe in having idealistic plans for marriage. This comes from my own bitter experience. I was sexually active before marriage and was poorer bringing that baggage into married life.
Sex is the most intimate expression of love between a husband and wife; the specialness of that expression is cheapened by giving it away to other people who are not part of that intimacy. As far as teen pregnancy goes, I also experienced that back in the early 1970s and successfully pressured my girlfriend to have an abortion. It’s something I have regretted since then (so has she). Pre-marital sex and teen pregnancy – and subsequent abortion hurt my marriage. Now as an old man, looking back after 40 years of marriage, I wish I had an idealized view of marriage as a young man.

Allowing a Christian-based sex education to be presented in public schools is the proper approach for a pluralistic society. After all, Christians make up a significant part of North American society. They should have a right to have their views represented in the public education system ― not just secular perspectives ― if we really do have a pluralistic society that is accepting of all views.

Simons wrote that “public schools which serve our diverse community have no business foisting one particular set of religious values on everyone. …” The Edmonton Pregnancy Care Centre is “foisting” their views on an unwitting public school?  Paula Simons gives Edmonton Public Schools too little credit and the Edmonton Pregnancy Care Centre too much.

Mark Davis Pickup
Some people may find one set of values offensive while others do not. Personally I find much of secular education offensive.  Secularism is not neutral. I do not think secularism has any business dominating public schools where many people of faith have children attending. We all have a valid place in public education. Welcome to that diverse community, Paula Simons.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


LaRee and Mark
My wife, LaRee, and I were asked to address a conference about critical life issues sponsored by the Diocese of Metuchen in New Jersey this coming Saturday. They wanted us to speak about a Christian perspective on suffering, disability and end of life care. It is a timely topic because New Jersey is considering a law to allow assisted suicide. The diocese wanted the dual perspectives of  someone with a degenerative and incurable condition like multiple sclerosis (me) ― and the perspective of a loved-one watching the deterioration and unable to stop it (my wife).  LaRee and I looked forward to going to New Jersey for two reasons: Firstly, we thought we could bring a needed life-affirming Christian story to the debate that is raging in that state. Secondly, we were going to celebrate our 40th anniversary after the conference in nearby city of New York. It was not to be.

LaRee’s aged mother’s frail physical condition started to take a life-threatening turn for the worse in Edmonton (Canada). We could not risk being so far away from her. Once again, my wife’s is giving a profound witness, by her actions, for Christian care of those who are vulnerable and cannot care for themselves. We cancelled our trip.

My wife’s active love for others has been illustrated for more than half of her lifetime.

Her mother lives in a secular nursing home and has dementia; her confusion makes her frightened and she cries out for LaRee.  As soon as she enters her mother’s room, all is calm again because she knows she is safe with LaRee near.

Unfortunately, my wife has deep reservations about anything that would put her mother in secular acute care hospital settings. That should come as no surprise in the current climate sympathetic to euthanasia. The threat of her mother being denied nutrition and hydration (food and water) is very real. LaRee’s grandmother endured that cruel fate ten years ago and died a torturous death.  It happens all the time to vulnerable people. In this new bioethical era, the incurably ill, dying, aged, and severely disabled are increasingly fearful of  hospitals where some physician ― with full backing of a hospital ethics committee ― may decide providing treatment to them is futile. Happily, I know of no instance where this has occurred in any Catholic hospital.

Treatments may be futile but the patient is never futile. Doing anything to hasten the death of a sick or dying person is always wrong and flies in the face of a very long tradition of Hippocratic medicine. That’s why I previously wrote that Catholic hospitals must never acquiesce to trends in bioethics that do not recognize the innate dignity and worth of every human being regardless of their state or stage in life.

Whether or not physicians working in Catholic hospitals are Catholic, they must adhere to the principles of Catholic teaching. As a person with advanced multiple sclerosis, I want to know I can rest confident knowing that medical decisions about my care follows those teachings.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that euthanasia is morally unacceptable (2277-2279). Any act of omission that causes death (like withholding food and water) is considered as murder and must always be forbidden. The Church does recognize there are times when active treatment designed to cure a dying patient ceases to be appropriate. “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate”. If death of a patient is imminent, “painkillers to alleviate sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means.” In such cases, death is recognized as inevitable but not hastened. The underlying principle is one of motive and intent. Death must never be the intent of any medical action or inaction. If a cure is not possible, care still is. Killing is immoral and never acceptable!

This is the ethic by which every Catholic hospital must operate its end of life care. They must always act in accordance with Catholic teaching on matters of life and death and never give in to trends in bioethics, secular pressures or financial burdens.

I am aware that American Catholic hospitals face difficult and challenging days ahead in this regard (and the demand to provide abortions) under Obamacare.  Stand firm against the pressure, do not give in. Catholic care must prevail over Obamacare.  If vulnerable people  cannot rely on Catholic care to always value their lives, where can they go to be safe?

I mentioned that that my mother-in-law feels safe when LaRee is near. Even in her mounting dementia she seems to know she’s in good hands. LaRee’s Christianity and familial love motivates her to stand in the gap for her vulnerable loved-ones. Within the past few days she combed through her mother’s advanced directive from 2009, and updated it to reflect 2013’s reality. She met with her mother’s treating physician to make sure every measure for comfort is given and ordinary care owed to all sick people is not interrupted (just like the Catechism says).
By caring for her mother in this way, LaRee is giving a vivid testimony to a culture of life that treats dying as the last phase of living in which the bonds of humanity are strengthened, not weakened.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013


What follows is the story of a wonderful man named Larry Larson. He tells of his journey with pancreatic cancer. It's not only moving it is important to read. Larry Larson's story is an example of a human journey through a terminal illness. -- Mark Davis Pickup 

Diane and Larry Larson

I Was Told I Had “Only a Month to Live” 31 Months Ago!

By Larry Larson

With Julie Grimstad

I was born and raised in a small city in the northernmost part of Wisconsin. My life was uneventful until I fell head over heels in love with a beautiful girl named Diane. The best move I ever made was to ask her to marry me. We’ve been happily married for 43 years. We have three wonderful children and eight beautiful grandchildren.  

In February 2011, I went to my Veterans Administration (VA) doctor for a check-up because I wasn’t feeling well. An MRI was done. Two days later, Valentine’s Day, Diane and I were having lunch at a restaurant when my cell phone rang. My doctor needed to see me immediately. As we sat down in his office, he told me I had stage four pancreatic cancer (inoperable). I knew that was one of the worst types, but I didn’t know just how bad. Diane and I had planned a trip to Florida. The deposit had been paid and plane tickets purchased. We asked if we could still go as it was only a couple weeks away. The doctor responded, “You will turn yellow and be too sick and weak, and have only a month to live.”  

I fainted. Diane told me later that my eyes rolled up into my head, I slumped over, and CODE BLUE was called. I woke up on a gurney. Later that day, I called my kids, relatives and close friends to give them the bad news. Not fun! 

I had to go to the VA Medical Clinic in Minneapolis, 160 miles away, for treatment, the first phase of which was a consultation with the head of the oncology department. She was pleasant and explained my treatment options. Because of its advanced stage, it was decided to attack the cancer aggressively. I could never remember the correct medical name, but because it was a relatively new type of chemotherapy, I called it “The New Kid on the Block.” After the first treatment, I walked outside into a cold misty rain. It felt like a thousand freezing pin pricks on my face. 

For my chemo treatments, we would drive to Minneapolis on Monday and stay in a hotel so we could make it to the VA clinic in the morning. After blood tests to determine if I could have chemo that day, they made up the batch. I’d get my treatment and then a battery operated pump for the second batch. The pump was attached to me for 46 hours. So, we would drive home and return two days later to have the pump removed. The pump was attached to a port, a quarter-size thing they placed in my chest that ran to an artery in my neck. Nobody at the VA clinic back home removes this, hence the 320-mile round trip twice a week, every other week. 

We put over 8,000 miles on the car before I turned 65. Then Medicare took over so I could get treatments closer to home. That made the next year a lot easier—only 60 miles round trip and no fighting traffic. 

My new doctor was a nice young man. We had a great doctor-patient relationship. After several months and several kinds of chemo, a CAT scan showed that my pancreas had calcified, which was unusual, and my lungs were not getting any worse. The doctor pulled his chair very close to mine, looked me in the eye and told me I had been given a gift. He had no idea why I was still alive or why the cancer wasn’t going anywhere.  

That was about nine months ago. Since that time, I have changed chemo again several times. That doctor left for another position. Even though I’m getting weaker, I am still here. My current doctor did the latest CAT scan and found that the cancer in my lungs had started to grow. He told me there is no other chemo to try. 

On June 24, 2013, my doctor told me I had three to six months left. But, who knows? The good news is that my hair has grown back and I’m not beat down by the chemo now. 

That is all the gloom and doom to my story. There are many good things to tell. 

I’ve had lots of fun times golfing. I even made the championship flight in my Senior League the last two years. We’ve also enjoyed socializing with our friends. An old police friend (I’m a retired police officer) said he wanted to get some of the guys together for drinks and reminiscing. I’ve been retired for 20 years, so it was overwhelming to see so many there. We’ve discovered how much people care about Diane and me. Our friends and family have been there for us every step of the way, doing anything they can to help, including praying.  

I also found out I married not only a beautiful girl, but my best friend, soul mate, caregiver, confidante, and a saint. Diane has stuck with me through every mile and has put up with more bad days than anyone should have to endure. One of the most touching moments came one day when we were driving home from the Minneapolis clinic. The news had been bad and we were both really down. Neither of us had spoken a word for quite a while. The radio was playing.

The song “Stand by Me” came on. Diane was driving, as usual. We both reached out and held hands. Though we’d heard that song a thousand times before, it never had so much meaning. We just held hands and cried. 

One last note: Dick, a good friend, had a memorial golf bench made in my name. It now sits in front of the golf course clubhouse. I’m the only living person to sit on his own memorial bench. Dick said he got tired of carrying that bench in his truck for two years, so he just dropped it off.   

I have lived a full and happy life. And it’s not over yet. I am truly blessed!
Larry Larson