Photo of Aurelia Brouwers A Poem on Euthanasia, by Ron L. Hodges The Society April 16, 2019 Culture, Deconstructing Communism, Poetry 9 Comments The Life That Is Not Life “I’m getting ready for my trip now.” —Aurelia Brouwers (who chose to be euthanized at age 29 in the Netherlands) You said it was the humane thing to do __For those condemned to “endless pain and strife,” Yet did you ever pause to ponder who __Would be assigned “the life that is not life”? You said it would end hardship without hope, __Spare those doomed the indignity of fate; You scorned any fear of an unseen slope __As mere lunacy, nothing to debate. So, when asked where the margin would be drawn __Across this dim continuum of death, You refused to render a Rubicon; __Instead, you gave some airy shibboleth. “When a life is no longer life,” you said, __“That’s the standard society will use,” Careless that lurking in the haze ahead __There might be a shadow we could abuse. Yes, here where the dignified dead began, __The epitaphs lend credence to your claim— Futures hopeless, and more suffering than __Any mortal medicine could tame. Yet, in the Cemetery of Mercy, __A darkness looms down there—below the rise. That’s where the markers of this grassy sea __Betray what pain-avoidance will devise. The gravestones multiply like cancer cells, __But not for cureless cancers do they bloom; More and more the terminal tale each tells __Is enduring sadness, not certain doom. Let me show you an alcoholic one __Who simply chose to forego the fight, Or another for whom the brightest sun __Could never seem to penetrate with light. Others unalterably defective, __(At least they perceived their own flaws that way), And elder souls possessing years to live __Convinced not to burden another day. Oh, and look! Sprouting there—a newborn grave! __Let’s examine this late resident’s grounds. Let’s see what made the inhabitant crave __A permanent home in an earthen mound. A pink and red stuffed dinosaur stands guard __Beside the gravestone of its fallen friend; How can a visitor’s nerves not be jarred __By what this childish token might portend? And, behold, the writing upon the stone, __The epitaph so delicate and fine— Oh, Aurelia, your fate was unknown, __And you were still young—merely twenty-nine! Is it compassion to let someone die __When suffering springs from a troubled mind? Is it unmerited to question why __We mock slippery-slopes while roaming blind? You said it was the humane thing to do __For those condemned to “endless pain and strife,” Yet did you ever pause to ponder who __Would then assume “the life that is not life”? Ron L. Hodges is an English teacher and poet who lives in Orange County, California. His works have appeared in The Road Not Taken, Ancient Paths, Calvary Cross, and The Society of Classical Poets Journal 2015 and 2016. He won the Society’s prestigious Annual Poetry Competition in 2016. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 9 Responses James Sale April 16, 2019 A powerful poem Ron – very powerful: the details accumulate and finally overwhelm one with the sense of loss, and also – and society hates this word – judgement. That one so young (or of any age to be honest) thinks that life is not to be lived is so profoundly wrong; for there have been so many examples of people in dreadful circumstances who have forged extraordinary lives from the very disabilities that have afflicted them. It is the unintended consequence of secularism and its lack of first principles that this is seen as acceptable and valid. Well done, Ron. This is great reading. Reply Ron L. Hodges April 16, 2019 Thank you so much, James! I appreciate you taking the time to read my poem. Reply Joseph S. Salemi April 16, 2019 The Nazis has a phrase, “Lebensunwertes Leben,” which means “life that is unworthy of life.” They used it describe persons whom they wanted to murder: the disabled, the chronically ill, the retarded, the mentally disturbed, and later on anyone who was considered subhuman. Don’t get sick in the Netherlands, folks. Reply Mark Stone April 16, 2019 Ron, 1. My favorite line is: “The gravestones multiply like cancer cells,” with its perfect meter, simile, assonance and consonance. Tied for my second favorite are lines 3 & 10, with their perfect meter and sonic appeal. 2. Since the debate about euthanasia is still taking place, and since using the present tense creates a sense of immediacy between interlocutors, I recommend you change stanzas 1-4 & 14 from the past tense to the present tense. For example: You say it is the humane thing to do For those condemned to “to endless pain and strife,” Yet do you ever pause to ponder who Will be assigned “the life that is not life”? 3. Several quick thoughts. Should “newborn grave” be “newborn’s grave”? Also, if “newborn” refers to Aurelia, I don’t think of a 29-year-old as a newborn. Regarding “the terminal tale each tells,” I think it’s the person who is terminal, rather than the tale being terminal. Finally, in line 56, I wonder if “define” might work better than “assume.” 4. I recommend putting more lines into perfect IP. Here are some possibilities: As lunacy, as if there’s no debate. Who simply opted to forego the fight, (Or who perceived their flaws to be that way), Aurelia, your fate was not yet known. 5. This is a strong poem about an important subject. Thank you for sharing it. Reply Ron Hodges April 17, 2019 Mark, Thanks for the useful and welcome feedback! Both “newborn” and “terminal” are used with ironic double-meanings in mind. Take care, RH Reply Jacqueline April 17, 2019 I believe he is referring to the grave itself as being “newborn” essentially personifying the graves themselves. As he mentioned the multiply like cancer cells (something so dark and terrifying) but then also calls a grave “newborn” (something so miraculous and full of hope and love)…very interesting! Reply Ron Hodges April 18, 2019 Yes, “newborn” should mean hope, yet, in this case, the grave is newly “born” from a philosophy that diminishes human life–that the life of “suffering” is not worth living. It is meant as dark metaphor. I know I shouldn’t be explaining myself; I promise not to do so anymore! 🙂 Amy Foreman April 17, 2019 A well-written poem about an unspeakably sad topic, Mr. Hodges. The repeated stanza at the beginning and ending of the poem is quite effective. Reply Ron Hodges April 18, 2019 Coming from you, that is a great compliment! Thank you! Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.