The dean of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., recently spoke to students about how the College community was instrumental in helping her family after her son was in a devastating car accident last year.
In Benedictine’s “Educator of the Year” speech, Dr. Kimberly Shankman spoke with as elect group of students achieving honors at the College. The speech was republished on The Gregorian Blog.
Shankman related in her talk how, after the accident, the College “rallied to [her family’s] side, with prayers, love, support, and ‘random acts of kindness’ to a degree that is simply breathtaking.”
Shortly after my son’s accident, after he was stable, but while he was still comatose, we had to authorize the insertion of his feeding tube. Discussing this during our meeting with his care team, one of the doctors asked us if we had considered if John would want to live this way; perhaps, she suggested, it would be better just to “let nature take its course” rather than to subject him to a diminished life.
At that moment the essential simplicity of the truth — that life itself is good, and it is a gift that is not ours to refuse — was what I had to cling to. I was able to tell this doctor that no, of course John didn’t want to live this way — no sane person would. But he didn’t have a choice between living that way and the life he had before the accident. This was the life he now had, and this life was God’s, not ours, to give or to take; our job was simply to love him and care for him as best we could.
Later, one of the people who was in the meeting told us that several others were very moved by what we said, because they had never heard it articulated so clearly. I would like to believe that I could have done this on my own, but I know that it really was the many years of living and learning within the Benedictine College community that prepared me for that moment, gave me the clarity to reject the false assumption that suffering made life unworthy, and the words to respond to the reality we faced.
Shankman went on to relate how, although her son “is severely handicapped,” he is “getting stronger and better by the day.”
“We do not know how where his journey will end,” Shankman continued, “but we do know, because we see every day, that he turns people into the hands and feet of Christ as they care for him, visit him, sing to him, bring him joy.”
Benedictine College is recommended in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity.
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