This morning didn’t start off so differently than any other day.
I got up, got the littles’ breakfast, and sat down for a few minutes to catch up on my day to dailies and the like.
And I came across this.
“A Declaration of Life – legal document to convey your wishes,
that should you be murdered,
you do not want the perpetrator to receive the death penalty…..”
The original legal document can be found here.
I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of the death penalty. I’ve stood on both sides of that fence actually. It was in 2011 in the case of Troy Anthony Davis, a man not quite a month older than me, that I revisited my stance on the death penalty. My husband was deployed, my Daddy had just been admitted to Hospice, and a man was on death row with lots of questions still unanswered. On the night of September 21, 2011, I found myself sitting on the side of my bed, willing that life take priority somewhere in the chaos that my life seemed to be at the time. The execution had been scheduled for 7 p.m. but delayed as the Supreme Court reviewed his case. As I thought about his family, I felt compassion. I knew what it was like to watch someone you love die, and I knew what it was like to walk through what seemed to be a hopeless situation. When word came down that Troy Davis had indeed been executed at 10:53 p.m., my heart broke and I wept. For someone I’d never met. For all of us. Hope drained from me that night.
So I guess it was that night that I began to rethink my position. In reality it is easy for me to say, “Oh yes, I’m against the death penalty.” Forgiveness, allowing second chances, giving grace, praying for a change of heart–all of those can be wrapped up nice and neat and seem so…..full of grace…..and loving. And lovely. What a lovely, non-angry thing to say. To be for life.
But when I read about this document for the very first time this morning, I felt like I’d been thrown in the deep end of the pool when all I was expecting to do was wade along the edge peacefully. With my clothes on. I wasn’t prepared. I felt overwhelmed and unsure of myself. Of what I believe.
If I believe what I say I believe, then it should be a relief to me that a legal document exists that I can print out, sign and have notarized and tuck away with my other important documents, right? (And I’m not debating the document’s legal merits either–if I were to move forward with this, the first person I’d talk to after my Aunt–oh there’s good news, she’s thinking–would be my attorney.) Surely if I am against the death penalty now, I should be against it after I am gone. Even if I am the victim of a murder…..well, huh. I hadn’t thought of that. Or what if the victim was someone I loved more than life itself?
I don’t have the answers, but as I’m figuring out, the older I get, life tends to give us more questions than answers, so I will attempt to work through this one just like many others. Maybe without ever finding the “right” answer. But I have a point that has nothing to do with which side of this fence you are on.
When we state what we believe, so adamantly, so full of certainty (as I have on occasion) that this is what we believe and it is right–we might be treading water in the shallow end of the pool. I think that if we were thrown in the deep end, surrounded by the actual reality of issues that get folks riled up, like the death penalty, abortion, gay marriage, legalization of medical marijuana–oh, the list goes on and on–we might not be so certain of our stance anymore. When it becomes personal, it might just seem a whole lot different. When it involves and affects us and the people we love, we might not be so certain anymore.
And so maybe what we are called to do, instead of judging others for where they stand, is to keep a check on our own position. Keep ourselves educated and always being willing to admit maybe there’s something out there we didn’t know, we hadn’t thought of. And being open to change.
And perhaps, when it’s all said and done, that’s the most grace-filled and loving position to take after all.
Still figuring things out…..love to all.