Curating a Culture of Life

The below op-ed, by former  Cornerstone intern Charlie Taylor, was originally published in the Union Leader on May 1, 2024. Charlie is a high-school senior living in Manchester, NH.

The State House continues to debate policy that would legalize suicide in New Hampshire. Our lawmakers should not be promoting a culture of death. State-sanctioned suicide is detrimental to our culture. It is not only dangerous for individuals facing significant health challenges, but it’s also tremendously harmful to the younger population already struggling with suicide.

As a senior in high school, I understand that I have limited life experience. However, I’m also at a unique point in my life to see many different perspectives. I see both sides—my parents caring for ill relatives who are getting older and many of the battles young people face. Every life has tremendous value. It’s crucial to recognize the value of our citizens’ lives and how critical the next generation is to our state. The negative future repercussions of legalizing suicide cannot be emphasized enough.

Beyond the fact that the requirements to be “eligible” for suicide will inevitably relax over time, legalizing suicide harms young people through the message it sends. The worst mantra you could possibly offer someone struggling with suicidal thoughts is “Some lives aren’t worth living.” The worst advice you could give is “Some situations call for suicide.”

I personally know three individuals who have attempted suicide in their high school years. It breaks my heart to say that one of them succeeded. The two young men who walked out the other side are doing much better now, but I can guarantee that what they needed at the time was a message of life, not death. They needed to know that there is joy in life despite adversity and suffering.

Whether that suffering is physical, mental, or a combination of the two, there is a path that leads to the embrace of life and not to the surrender of death. In fact, triumph over suffering can bring joy in itself! Getting through trials may seem impossible at times, but what stands on the other side is an unbreakable joy.

One of the most impactful ways I’ve seen this truth is in the disability community. My little brother has Down syndrome and severe autism, a diagnosis that’s been challenging for my family in many ways. Though our situation is difficult, there are many families with heavier burdens. I’ve seen people bound to wheelchairs that can neither toilet nor feed themselves, children who act with constant aggression, and individuals who bolt at the most inconvenient and unsafe times (to name a few). The most remarkable thing about these individuals and their families is their unrelenting joy through these challenges. There is no greater testament to the resiliency of the human soul than that: our circumstances do not define how we react to adversity, we do.

Why not spread this message instead? Why not share the hope of laughter amidst trials, of tranquility amidst the tempest? We can choose to support each other through hardship and trouble as we embrace every second of the gift of life on this earth. This task is by no means easy, but it is the true meaning of community.

This positive outlook is attainable—it’s exhibited by countless members of the disability community and many with terminal illnesses. From my experience, I’ve discerned that there is hope. The end of your tunnel is nearer than you think, and there is light just ahead. Because of this message of hope and the steadfast love of those around me, I have been able to withstand what some might call severe adversity and come through to embrace life even more.  That choice is available to everyone, regardless of their particular circumstances.

As HB 1283 moves through our state legislature, I would like to encourage all readers to think about where their priorities lie. Do we want to advocate death as a remedy for difficulty? I certainly don’t. The stakes are far too high to remain complacent, so I ask all who still care about life in New Hampshire to contact their senator and urge them to vote against HB 1283.

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