‘We Loved You Even Before You Were Born’
Right to live/right to die. Personal choice of medical treatment. Parental love and care for children. You know that these issues command headline attention. Some newspaper stories have been about Jehovah’s Witnesses, who decline blood transfusions for religious reasons. But many others are involved because medical decisions affect the life and health of all of us. To help put the issues in perspective, let us note the experience of a family who greatly altered their life-style in order to give their children proper care. Next follows the intensely interesting case of a couple in Italy who were charged with murder when their child died from an incurable illness. These and the two following articles will help you to evaluate some of the issues mentioned above, especially the question of who should make medical decisions affecting your health and life.
WHEN 9-year-old Luigi and 11-year-old Antonella arrive home for lunch, their mother, Fiorella, greets them with a hug and asks: “How did things go at school today?” The conversation goes on as they wash, change and then sit at the table. After Fiorella says a brief prayer, they eat with a good appetite. Their father, Carlo, will not be home until evening, but they often mention him with affection and will have much to tell him.
Do you feel that this warm family scene is from a bygone age? It might seem so, for you know that family life today is usually very different. (Note the box.) Clearly, the family environment—where children spend most of their time—is degenerating.
With the spread of divorce and separation, the phenomenon of “suitcase children” grows. Children are sent back and forth between parents like some sort of parcel. Other children who live with both parents must be sad spectators of family fights, if not the battered victims of them. The deteriorated family environment often leads to drug abuse and juvenile delinquency.
The United Nations proclaimed 1979 as the International Year of the Child. But “something more than the Year of the Child is needed to remedy the situation,” wrote Fabrizio Dentice in L’Espresso, January 28, 1979. “Today’s life-style makes us what we are, and this is what needs changing,” the magazine said.
Yet you know that changing the life-style and improving the home environment of children is not easy. It is, though, what Carlo and Fiorella did a few years ago, after studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. They decided to apply Bible principles in their family. So now their homelife is marked by love, to their children’s blessing.
How Can a Life-Style Be Changed?
You undoubtedly know of other families who could benefit from a change of life-style and home environment. How can that be achieved? It involves altering the pattern of life. Most people live in an egotistic fashion, satisfying their own whims and ambitions. Many put their best energies into career building or the pursuit of pleasure. If they get tired of their marriage partner, they just change.
For it to be different with us, we must give priority to the basic and durable values in our lives. This means making room for God and the principles of the Holy Bible. That can satisfy our spiritual need, as it did for Carlo and Fiorella. We also can become alert to help others, for the Bible teaches: “You must love your neighbor as yourself” and, “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Matthew 22:39; Acts 20:35.
What effect will this have on our relationship with our children? Instead of being objects that get in our way, they are persons. Whether they were planned for or not, we will appreciate them as persons for whom we, the parents, are responsible. They can turn out to be a blessing if we transmit to them a legacy of love and spiritual values. Such values become a stabilizing element in any family.
Having such an outlook can even influence the way parents view children before they are born. We can better appreciate this by looking further at the experience of Carlo and Fiorella.
Before They Are Born—And After
“Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah.” In saying that, Psalm 127:3 shows that children are precious, to be greatly treasured. A person who hopes to inherit something usually makes plans to receive it and to take care of it.
This proved true with Carlo and Fiorella. Prior to studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, they never realized that following its principles can have a positive influence on even an unborn baby. For example, the Bible stresses cleansing ourselves of every defilement of the flesh. (2 Corinthians 7:1) Thus Jehovah’s Witnesses do not damage their bodies by using tobacco or taking drugs for thrills. However, there is evidence that this is also an important safeguard for the unborn. So when Fiorella became pregnant again, her Bible knowledge gave her added reason to avoid anything that would harm the child in her womb. By holding to a suitable, balanced diet and being cautious about the use of medication, she showed consideration for her unborn baby as a precious “inheritance.”
You know, though, that for any parent this is only the beginning! After a baby is born it will need nutritious food, suitable clothing and medical care. Think of what this may mean for the family. For instance, though some parents might often be satisfied with a quick evening meal to leave them free to go out dancing or to see a movie, they must now consider their children’s needs. Balanced, healthful meals are especially important for growing children. So while it occasionally may be necessary to make do with less elaborate meals, loving parents will normally adjust their activities so that their children will have a proper, balanced diet. Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to do this.
However, as you can appreciate, care for our children involves more than just material factors. Children need love, time and friendship from their parents. Their emotional needs must be satisfied by our ‘cherishing’ them.—1 Thessalonians 2:7.
Carlo and Fiorella learned that Jesus said: “Man must live, not on bread alone.” (Matthew 4:4) Loving Christian parents who recognize this truth provide spiritual training for their children. Fiorella and Carlo had seen this in action when they began to attend Christian meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. These were not somber gatherings of just older people, but many children were present, children who by their relaxed happiness reflected the balanced parental love and care that Witness parents provide.
Perhaps you did not know that the Witnesses give such importance to family life. They really do. Many of their publications deal with the duties of Christian parents. Often their meetings emphasize that true Christians reflect the attributes of Jehovah God, “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort.” Thus all present are urged to look after their children.—2 Corinthians 1:3.
Some outsiders have noticed the excellent qualities that Witness parents display. An Italian newspaper commented: “We find they have a strict moral sense and a rigorous adherence to this, which tends to safeguard true values, such as those of family life. Regarding dealings between mates and with their children, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not tolerate an irresponsible recourse to separation and divorce.”—La Nazione, July 31, 1979.
Loving Care, Medical Care
Yet there are some who say, “If Jehovah’s Witnesses want to be good parents, why do they refuse to let their children have blood transfusions? Is that not murder?” Have you heard such remarks or even wondered about this yourself?
Such remarks relate to an issue that involves more than Jehovah’s Witnesses and that has been in the headlines of newspapers. It is this: As noted, loving parents are expected to care for their children’s welfare, which obviously includes providing medical attention. But what voice do caring parents have in medical decisions for their children?
This is a question that involves all parents, not just Jehovah’s Witnesses. But with the Witnesses in mind, think further about devoted parents, such as Carlo and Fiorella, who love their children so much that they are ready to die for them. (John 15:13) Newspapers have reported that such parents have refused to let blood transfusions prescribed by doctors be given to their children. Why? Clearly it is not out of callousness, for they are loving parents.
In a number of instances, the courts have been called in to deal with such cases —cases that involve parental rights. This may have a bearing on how you will care for your children—children that you must have loved even before they were born. With these points in mind you will find the following article to be of great interest.
[Box on page 3]
A Modern-Day Tragedy for the Innocent
● Italy: 5,000 children seriously battered every year
● United States: 23,000,000 children are left alone with the telephone, awaiting their parents’ return
● Great Britain: 100,000 children have been abandoned by their parents
● West Germany: 1,000 children killed each year through mistreatment