Lives Worth Living

What would you do if you found out the child you were eagerly expecting would be born crippled, unable to ever swing on monkey bars, play the piano, or even hold your hand? That was exactly the news Linda and Richard Bannon received when an ultrasound revealed their developing son had no arms.

Despite encouragement to end the pregnancy, the Bannons chose to carry their baby to term, saying, “[Abortion] was never even a consideration of ours. We want a family. We want to have a baby.”

One fact made that decision easier to make. The Bannon’s son, Timothy (now 10 years old), inherited a rare genetic condition called Holt-Oram syndrome. It’s a condition his mother, Linda, has endured for over 30 years. Linda, you see, was also born without arms. But that hasn’t stopped her from living life to the fullest.

“I think a lot of people, when they first see me,” she says, “don’t realize how independent I am and how capable I am of doing everything that I do.”

As Kristi Burton at Life News remarks, “Perhaps it was strange for Linda to hear a doctor suggest that she might want to kill her baby boy who was just like her.”

Timmy, who now runs, swims, engineers LEGO structures, and plays video games with his feet, has already shown an independent streak to match his mom’s. And like so many with disabilities, he defies the utilitarian logic that leads many parents to deem their unborn children’s lives not worth living.

But even those more profoundly disabled than Timmy — who struggle not only with tasks most people perform without thinking, but find it difficult to even communicate — deserve and enjoy life.

Paul Smith proved that. The former resident of an Oregon nursing home who died in 2007, Paul brought tears to eyes nationwide when NBC’s John Stofflet aired this octogenarian’s story. Smith was born with cerebral palsy and grew up in a world of virtual isolation. Unable to speak at all until his teens, he learned to express himself through a medium few would have imagined: an old typewriter.

But Smith wasn’t a writer. He was an artist — a remarkably talented and prolific one. He never picked up a paintbrush or a pencil, and couldn’t have held one steady if he had. But during his lifetime, he produced hundreds of masterpieces, using his shaky index finger, his typewriter, and decades of scenes from his photographic memory. His stunningly beautiful images are all the result of days and weeks spent typing one symbol at a time, often with colored ink.

Of course, few stories speak as loudly on behalf of disabled lives as Joni Eareckson Tada’s. This author, speaker, and defender of the weakest not only values life intrinsically, but finds deep joy despite having spent 47 years in a wheelchair. Joni retells her story and offers striking insights on how to face suffering in her recent interview with John Stonestreet on BreakPoint.

All of these lives reflect one of the clearest truths in all of Scripture: Human beings are created in God’s image, and as such carry equal, inherent value (Genesis 1:26). Unlike secular utilitarianism, Christianity holds that neither an individual’s usefulness to society, nor his or her independence, nor even happiness, changes that individual’s value. All life is worth living, for as long as God sustains it.

And as Jesus taught and showed throughout his earthly ministry, those who suffer from disabilities and other consequences of the Curse can find hope in the one who “took up our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17). His healing miracles provide a foretaste for those who experienced them and those who read about them — a foretaste of the Resurrection in which “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4).

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