Why the Ascension Still Matters

On this day when we celebrate Our Lord’s Ascension into heaven, the headlines are full of the sad tale of a renowned botanist named Dr. David Goodall who ended his life yesterday at the age of 104 in a Swiss suicide clinic. His claims to have had nothing more to live for proves why the great hope of the Ascension is so desperately needed today.

The Daily Caller is reporting on the death of Dr. Goodall by lethal injection at 10:00 a.m. yesterday morning in the Life Circle clinic in Basel, Switzerland. Four family members and a close friend were present. He reportedly listened to Beethoven’s nine symphony while passing away.

Goodall, who was born in England in 1914 but lived most of his life in Australia, said he regretted living this long because life had become miserable for him when he lost his ability to walk and his eyesight began to fail. A long-time member of the assisted suicide group, Exit International, he said his only regret was that he couldn’t kill himself in Australia.

“What I would like is for other countries to follow Switzerland’s lead and make these facilities available to all clients, if they meet the requirements, and the requirements not just of age but of mental capacity,” Goodall said, according to CNN.

Goodall’s “requirements” aren’t all that strict. He believes that “once one passes the age of 50 or 60, one should be free to decide for oneself whether one wants to go on living or not.”

He seems to have enjoyed life for a good long time, well into his 90’s, but then his eyesight began to fail and the university where he worked let him go – at the age of 102. He fought to get the job back. But then he suffered a bad fall and was unable to get up for two days. After this incident, he was told that he would need 24-hour-care and should be put it into a nursing home.  All of these events are surely what caused him to attempt suicide several times before he finally decided that he needed assistance.

Sadly, no one was able to assist him out of the despair that he was obviously feeling – but there were plenty of people available to help him die.

As a result, he spent his last night on earth in his hotel, dining on a supper of fish and chips and cheesecakes, and did not hesitate in the least when it was time to go to the clinic. In fact, as Life News reports, he was impatient for the process to begin.

When his family members were busy filling out official forms, Goodall could be heard saying, “What are we waiting for?” And then, when it was time for him to administer the lethal drug, Nembutal, he was unable to turn the wheel. Accompanying doctors quickly arranged for him to operate the device with a switch which he quickly flicked. As the drugs flowed into his body, Beethoven’s symphony began to play.

His last words were, “This is taking an awful long time.”

Although his grandchildren praised him for his “bravery” in ending his own life, I couldn’t help but compare Goodall’s final words to those of the great saints and martyrs.

For example, just before St. Perpetua was martyred, she said to her brother, “Stand fast in the faith and love one another.”

St. Thomas More, who proudly proclaimed just before his death, “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Or the great St. Therese of Lisieux who was about to die from a devastatingly painful tuberculosis for which she requested no relief. “I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me. My God, I love You.”

Now that’s courage! Even on their deathbeds, they found something hopeful and encouraging to offer to the world. They left us with the reassurance that even in the last moments of life, God gives us the grace to keep our hope alive.

This is what God does for His people. Even to our last moments here on earth, He is with us. Just as the apostles watched Him rise into heaven on the Ascension, they knew just as we do that He will never leave us orphans. He is with us not just to the end, but through the end, and into a life that will never end.

If only Dr. David Goodall could have turned toward this glorious Light rather than to darkness!

Let us keep his soul – and the souls of all who have lost their will to live – in our prayers on this Ascension Day, that they might find the only One who can conquer their darkness.

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