I gave a pint of blood today. Don't be too in awe of my generosity. When they asked when I had previously given, and I couldn't remember, they checked the computer and it was 1994! Still, I've made an appointment to go back in March. If you are fit and well and able to do it, I encourage you to think about giving blood even if you've never done so. If someone as squeamish as me can cope, anyone can. If you're Scottish, you can find your nearest donor point here. It's an amazing thing that someone else can get your blood, and that we can so easily part with it with no ill effect.
It is a severe handicap for us preachery types that we can't do anything in life (perhaps with one or two exceptions which I won't go into) without thinking of sermon illustrations from the experience. (I once went on a two day health and safety course and got lots of sermon illustrations from it, which is hardly what my employers had in mind in sending me).
I'm not going to enlighten/bore you as to what were the sermon points I came up with as a result of giving blood. Mind you, I'd love to know your suggestions for what sermon illustrations you could get from the experience, whether you're the churchgoing type or not.
Anyway, the main thing that has struck me today is what an amazing thing the human body is. As well as some blood, over the years I have parted with my wisdom teeth, my appendix and my tonsils, not to mention the four little humans removed by caearean section over five years or so. I know I could still survive other bits of me being removed. Not that I'm volunteering for it, you understand. According to QI last night, it is not in fact true as I had formerly believed that earthworms can survive being chopped in half. Occasionally the head end will survive, but not always. On the other hand a female human being could, as well as appendix and tonsils, part with gall bladder, breasts, limbs, a kidney, all her teeth, an eye or two, and who knows what else, and still be a person. I don't know what that illustrates, except that I am completely mad to be having such weird thoughts. But it does make me think of how what constitutes a human being needs a broad description. I remember when Firstborn was a wee baby (and she was quite wee - 5lb 12oz at birth) got her first anorak. I hung it on a coat peg beside the front door and found myself saying, idiotically, "Look! Just like a real human!" But to this day, I find it astonishing that a little tiny baby is a "real human".
I guess what makes a real human is quite an important thought when it comes to the euthanasia/assisted suicide debate. Tonight, the BBC is showing the death of a man who, because of his serious illness, went to Switzerland (where the law is different) to have an assisted suicide.
My main concern with that debate is that if the law here was changed to allow it, then perhaps over time, vulnerable ill, elderly and/or disabled people might think that they are too much of a burden to their family and/or the NHS, and that the right thing to do would be to "spare" their family by ending their own lives.
Recently I heard on the radio a debate between a man who had become quadriplegic through an accident, with a lady who also was severely disabled. Both needed 24-hour care. The man said that his special bed had been taken away due to NHS cuts in their area and that he had pressure sores. The lady was pretty incensed about that, and made the very powerful point that "little" things like pressure sores can influence detrimentally someone's quality of life to a tipping point where they no longer want to live. She also said that until, as a society, we are able to support all our citizens with their right to live properly, we shouldn't even be discussing the right to die. Perhaps as a society we tend to discount various categories of people in our minds as not being "real humans". Not consciously, but we still do it. And they are bound to pick up that message.
I mentioned my no-longer-with-me appendix earlier. When the fever was at its height, I would probably have opted for assisted suicide had it been available! Pain stops you thinking rationally. People who are suffering are not in the best place to judge whether it is time to die. People who are clinically depressed aren't either. And the burden on the family and on the doctors, of having to take the decision to help is a heavy burden indeed. We are not God. Even those who don't believe in God must agree that they are not God.