No matter how short, all life is worthy of recognition

L By Shannon Fiecke

last Saturday I attended the funeral of someone I had never met. I felt little sorrow, save for the 20-year-old mother, until I walked up to the cradle-size casket of my infant cousin. Inside, Mason looked as if he was merely slumbering as he lay dressed in a baby sleeper and cap. He had never taken a breath but nevertheless was perfectly formed, the size of a full-grown newborn.

Grief surprisingly overwhelmed me as I walked back to my seat. The baby had been hidden from my view at Christmas, when he was alive, tumbling around inside his mother. Now I would never hold his squirming body, never feel the scent of his newborn skin. Never scold him as he crawled into trouble.

He would never suck the breast of his mother or hear her say, “I love you.” He would never be rocked or be dressed in doll clothes by his sisters.

Sadness of life lost rose within my throat as I said goodbye to the little one who shared my blood, my heritage and most likely similar family traits.

More than 50 people attended his service; tears flowed. Men lowered the infant to his grave. A pastor gave a eulogy as we shivered outside. All this for a child who was unwanted, whose death could have come willingly if so desired.

When most couples experience the death of a baby, they have grief twofold. Not only do they suffer the loss of never knowing their infant, but they also lose their dream of having a child, which they might have planned for a long time.

This was different: He was to be the third child of an unwed mother with minimal financial means. Although she loves her children, my cousin was in no position to raise another.

My relatives had groaned in disappointment when they learned she was expecting again. Most did not congratulate her on the pregnancy that they believed was wrong. However, they did not place blame upon the child, who remained in their sight as just that – a child, regardless of the circumstances surrounding his conception.

There could have been an entirely different story and ending. Mason could have had his life ended purposely that same week by his mother. Then, however, he would not have received a service commemorating his life. Instead, he would have been wrapped in a garbage bag and disposed in a dumpster or cremated in an abortion clinic furnace. He would have had no flowers lain at his casket, no grave marked with his name. No obituary in the paper. No death certificate. He would be as a ghost who never existed.

This week is the 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that has led to the legalization of abortion. It is hailed as a victory for the progression of human rights, in particularly, women’s rights.

It is necessary to question if women have truly succeeded when their rights include making subjective the rights of the most dependent and innocent of society.

Is it a human rights victory when one’s life is not intrinsically deemed worthy, but rather considered only of value if so determined by its conceiver?

Where else in the United States is the right to a funeral based solely upon the condition of death?

Shannon Fiecke is a University senior studying journalism. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]