April 6, 2018

Be Our Guest / Rob Murray

Colton Murray: A case for life

Colton Murray. (Submitted photo)

Colton Murray. (Submitted photo)

My wife Vickie and I lost our grandson Colton Murray in mid-December of 2017, just 13 days short of his second birthday.

Some from our home church, St. Joseph University Parish in Terre Haute, knew from the outset that he was our grandson. Others came to know it, having followed Colton on Facebook and later discovering the connection.

He succumbed to a multitude of serious medical issues, some of which stemmed from Down syndrome, and others to multiple genetic defects that left him with bad circulation and a heart that only worked on one side.

As I prepared Colton’s funeral oration in December, there were several rich threads of thought that ran through my mind that demanded a voice, but there was one in particular that begs to be shared. It began with the question: What if there had been no Colton?

Much in the same vein as the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, we can take a clear, measurable look at what difference Colton’s existence made in the world. This little boy, through the agency of his parents, accomplished more in two years than many have accomplished in a lifetime.

His résumé was impressive. It included being chosen to be an ambassador for the National Down Syndrome Society, and he appeared in their annual Times Square video in 2017. Colton also starred in a 30-second spot for Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where he spent a good deal of his life. There were also a number of media outlets across the United States who kept audiences apprised of Colton’s progress.

Colton also rewrote the book on certain approaches to medical care as he presented new challenges to the doctors and nurses who cared for him. As one doctor put it: “We would always start with the book, and then let Colton rewrite it for us.”

In addition, he enjoyed a huge virtual gathering of well-wishers who cheered the little boy on and collectively came to prayer on a regular basis. At last count, there were around 28,000 people who had been following Colton’s story on Facebook.

Here is a Facebook post from one of Colton’s followers named Penny. She wrote: “It’s been a pleasure and a blessing having Colton in our lives, even though we have never met. To be able to share in on your blessing and prayers through the hard times. My twins will be 6 on Saturday, but have come so far in their prayer life and learning to care for someone so far away. Thanks to you and your family for helping to mold my children. Colton will forever be in our hearts.”

It is very clear to me that God’s hand was on this little boy as Colton, without uttering the first word, preached the perfect sermon and brought tens of thousands into his little church to pray.

God is the “tender care that nothing be lost,” says Alfred North Whitehead, a famous British mathematician and philosopher. It is most certainly true of Colton. God wasted nothing.

So the question presents itself again: What would have happened if Colton’s parents had chosen to abort him because they knew that he had defects? And what would have happened if these parents had chosen not to bring Colton into the world because it would have significantly and inconveniently disrupted their lives?

In this case, we can see and measure the results. We can know the answer to this question. Because of the love of Mom and Dad and their unwavering commitment and care for this little boy, plenty happened. This little life was filled with a richness and long-reaching effect that no one could have predicted, but was made possible because two people said “yes” to Colton and to God.

Being pro-life is not a political stance. It is not a movement. And it most certainly is not the irrational claims of raving religious lunatics. Rather, it is the deliberate and reverential acknowledgement that even in this fallen world where much can go wrong with a human being, that selfsame human being by its very nature possesses an incalculable worth because he or she is made in the image of God.

All human life from conception to natural death deserves the honor bestowed upon it by our Creator. We can offer nothing less than our best as we adore God and reverence his images.

Lastly, let me say that Vickie and I are beyond grateful for the many kindnesses, the prayers and well wishes, the gifts and most especially the love that has poured out from the hearts of people toward Colton and his family.

We received the kind of unmerited, undeserved love that so vividly reflects the Lord’s love for each of us. It is also a humbling experience, because the love flows freely, and it washes over a person who receives it without any sense of control.

It was our place to simply accept it without repayment and bask in the love of Christ that shown on our family like a warm winter sun.

To say, “Thank you,” doesn’t even begin to express our gratitude.

(Rob Murray is a pastoral associate at St. Joseph University Parish in Terre Haute.)

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