Retired nurse, Gill Pharaoh, 75, said that it was her work in a nursing home that made her aware of the burdens old age placed on loved ones. Before checking in at the Lifecircle Clinic in Basel, Switzerland, to voluntarily end her life on July 21st, she said, “I do not want people to remember me as a sort of old lady hobbling up the road with a trolley.”
Ms. Pharaoh (obviously British) did not suffer from depression or any other incapacitating conditions. On her blog post she wrote that her life was slowly being sapped of the simple joys, like long walks and working in her garden.
She spent a last evening in Basel with her life partner John that he describes as "tranquil and enjoyable." ... "Gill had been thinking about it for years and I had no intention of spoiling it by getting emotional and heavy." Her daughter Caron, also a nurse, admits the decision was hard on her, but Pharaoh wrote in her blog post that while many parents expect their children to care for them in their old age, she would not to put that burden on her own kids. "I had children for the personal and selfish reason that I wanted them for the pleasure and joy they bring. I want them to enjoy their middle years without having to worry about me."
This story stands out because Gill, while still active and in good health, decided it was time to die. She acted preemptively, ending her life before the pangs of old age could over take her.
Most of us would not condone Ms. Pharaoh’s actions. By contrast, we strive to squeeze every precious moment out of life. It doesn’t occur to us to act in such a drastic, preemptive way while still in good health. Even in decline, we naturally cling to as much of life as possible, for as long as possible.
Yet, in the spiritual realm, it’s just such a drastic, preemptive act that lies at the heart of the Christian life. Contrary to our natural inclinations, the Bible exhorts us to put to death the deeds of the flesh, to seek to be crucified with Christ, to die daily! To follow Christ’s call, we must be willing to move preemptively, before the pangs of sin and death overtake us.
But when life is good, few Christians wake up to face a day thinking “I must die today.” Rather, on our good days we think, “I’ve got this.” We live like we’re in one of those Bruce Willis movies, Die Hard, when God is actually telling us to hurry up and “Die Already!”
Feeling in control, we fail to see our need to be totally dependent on God. But Paul didn’t say “I die on my bad days.” He said “I die daily.” Everyday, no matter what his circumstances were, Paul understood his need to die to a self-focused life—to put to death the desires of the flesh so that he might live in the Spirit.
Do you seek to preemptively deal with sin by dying to yourself everyday? Don’t plug along in your own strength, only yielding yourself to a state of total dependence on God in the midst of trial or failure. Why wait to be forced to an end of yourself? Choose to seek grace before a crisis. Be preemptive. Learn to lean on God in the good times as well as in the difficult times.
As contrary as it is to our natural inclinations, death to self is God’s preemptive strategy for dealing with sin and releasing the power of the Spirit in our lives.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).