The Value of a Life
Kendra’s Daughter Rachel
Eulogy- The Value of a Life
Because of my own handicapped daughter Rachel I have a special interest in issues concerning people gaining a greater understanding of both those who are disabled and those who care for those with disabilities. The eulogy spoken at Rachel’s funeral may give you some insights and a new perspective about those with disabilities. You are welcome to share this message with anyone you feel it would help.
The Value of a Life
The following remarks were prepared for her funeral on February 24th, 2001 by her father David G. Burton. Rachel Burton died from the life long effects of hydrocephalus on February 21st, 2001.
When she was born, the first MRI of her head showed that 80% of her head was filled with water (cranial fluid) leaving only 20% brain mass. She had been resuscitated and taken by paramedics from her home to the hospital many times and by life flight. Rachel had three shunt operations, surgery to repair a cleft pallet, and mal rotated bowel and to implant a permanent gastrointestinal feeding tube. She had spent a great deal of time in critical care for many illnesses including RSV, and four cases of pneumonia. Over her lifetime she had many seizures for which she received anti-seizure medication six times daily. She was fed Pediasure formula and medicated six times each day through a tube to her stomach because she could not eat normally and she wore diapers for nine years. She could not walk, talk, eat or drink, but she had a beautiful radiant smile that warmed you and changed your heart…
First of all, I would like to thank all of you that have helped our family in any way over the past nine years. We could not have made it without you. We owe a debt of gratitude to friends, doctors, nurses, paramedics, Jordan Valley Special Needs School workers, DSPD social workers, and family.
I would like to talk today about a subject that I think many of you have wondered about because you’ve known Rachel or you have had similar experiences in your own life personally.
The question I would like to discuss is: how do you determine the value of a life-specifically, someone like Rachel? The recurring thought when you meet or know someone like Rachel is: “why”? If she lives her entire life never making a conscious decision, never making a choice between good and evil, then what was the value, what was the purpose in her life? I have had nine years to think about this question. Each time the paramedics were called and she was resuscitated again, and again, and again, the question would return again, “why?”
Thoughts have been coming to me since Rachel’s birth at various times, in answer to this question, and have increased significantly over the last year and a half. I didn’t know why they were coming to me more frequently, but I do today. I now realize that they were meant for me and were to be shared with you today. The message I have to say is for someone here today.
Because I am sure you also have asked the question, as I have: “why?”
Was Rachel’s life an accident, a mistake of God, something He wishes He could do over again? How did this happen? Why did it happen? What was gained from it?
Because of the writings of the prophets, words of Jesus in the Bible, and revelations given to us, for us, in modern times, and my own personal experiences, which confirm what these scriptures have taught me, I can testify to you of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not claim to always understand, or have all the answers, but I have received enough answers to prayers, and seen enough miracles to be able to tell you one thing for certain, God lives. Another thing I know is that, your Father in Heaven knows you personally, by name, every single individual, specifically, personally, name by name.
I cannot emphasize this enough: God knows each and every one of us. How? Because we are literally and truly, each of us, His spirit children. God loved us before we were born into mortality. In our life before we were born into this earth life we desired to grow to be like Him because we admired Him, and we were awed by Him. He created this earth for us to have learning experiences that we could have no other way, to gain our desire to be like Him. Our loving Father in Heaven did not force us to come to this earth against our will. Let me repeat that thought: God did not force us to come here against our will. It is critical for us to know that concept. Our loving Father in Heaven did not trick us into coming here. Our loving Father in Heaven did not deceive us about the hard realities we would face in coming here. Force and deception are the opposite of a loving God, they are tools of those who oppose God. It makes no sense that we could have trust in a God who says that He loves us and then tricks us, lies to us, or forces us to go through horrible pains in this life against our will. Could we believe in such a God? I could not. How can such thoughts engender love, trust or hope? How could such thoughts engender a desire to return to Him or be like Him? They can not. Then there must be something else, something greater. We must know that this life was an act of love from a loving Heavenly Father. It was not a punishment. This life has meaning, and purpose, our life was not given to us to provide some type of divine entertainment.
For this life to have its greatest value we must know why we are here. If there is one question that we need to answer while we are on this earth, it is: “why are we here?” Not just why was Rachel here, but why are we individually here? Our Loving Heavenly Father gave us the choice to come here and we were thrilled with that choice and the learning experiences that we freely chose to have… let me say again… and the learning experiences we freely chose to have. In the Bible, Job was struggling to face the challenges of his life, which were many. Amidst his struggles, he was pleading to God and God answered. Here is God’s response to Job’s lamentations…”where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof…” Our Father in Heaven was asking Job to think about (as he went through his struggles) that the God who created the earth, who founded the earth, is in control. He created the earth, He is aware, and then He asks Job, where were you when all these things happened? God continues, “…When the morning stars sang together…”, and this is the key phase, and when, “…all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Read KJV Job 38:1-7) God was talking to Job about a time at the foundation of the earth, before any of us were born on this earth… who were these sons of God who shouted for joy referred to in this scripture, who were they? They were us, the literal spirit children of Heavenly Father, who were with Him as the earth was created, and we shouted for joy! This is why the scriptures refer to God over and over as Our Father in Heaven, because He is the Father of our Spirits.
Did we shout for joy because it was a chance to get away from a stern Heavenly Father and just party out of His presence for seventy or so years?… No. We shouted for joy because God gave us the opportunity to come here, as I said before, and have growth experiences that we could have in no other way and we chose to experience the hard times that we knew we had to experience, and chose to encounter, to become like our Heavenly Father.
Before we were born, you and I and Rachel all knew each other. We discussed with Heavenly Father the mission and purpose of our individual lives. He spoke with us and we discussed with Him our own personal strengths and weaknesses that had developed over the many years we lived with Him. A plan was laid out individually for our lives on this earth to utilize our strengths to help others, and to learn to overcome our own personal weaknesses. It has been said that some of us were sent to this earth to lead, some were sent to follow, but the reality is that we were all sent to both teach and be taught by each other.
We knew our family members there in pre-earth life. We were not forced by a loving Heavenly Father into a particular family. We knew and loved each other and promised to help each other through this life to grow. We chose to be with each other on this earth. I thank my children often for choosing to be in our family even though they knew what it would be like. (Dave, smiling, pointing to his children on the front row…) You can’t say you didn’t know what it would be like to be our kids because you were in heaven looking down and you saw what was going on. (Smiling).
There were some hard choices we made in pre-earth life. Would we grow more from experiencing the pain of others, or our own pain, or maybe both? Some of us can learn by reading about the painful experiences of others. Some of us can learn from observing the painful experiences of others. There is a third group of us that experience pain first hand. Is our pain to teach us or help teach others? Most likely the answer is both. I pray that I am sensitive enough, aware enough, and humble enough to be in the first category. There is a lot of pain in this life and there are many people who go through their entire life impacted by pain and that is all they seem to get out of their given life experience. All they are aware of is the pain, that is the greatest sadness, the greatest loss, and the greatest waste because the teaching moment was lost on them.
For emphasis let me say again, pain is sad but pain itself is not the saddest thing. The saddest thing is to simply go through this life and only experience pain and not learn the lessons our loving Heavenly Father is trying to give us. If all we say in hind sight about the painful experience, all we take away with us from the experience is to say, “what the heck was that all about, that was painful…I hated that”, or even worse, “I hate you God, for that painful experience you forced me to go through”, we cannot receive the knowledge and growth we are to receive from the painful experience.
The saddest thing is for us to stumble through this life not having a clue why we’re here, where we came from, or where we are going after this life… just having one painful unenlightening experience after another, blundering though life, missing the point, not learning anything, not knowing what our purpose for being here is, or whose lives we are to bless.
Please do not stop at the point of pain, mental or physical. Please press onward past the pain and ask the question: Heavenly Father, what is it I am supposed to learn from this? We need to ask God: what is it I am supposed to learn from this, because it was part of your life plan.
Other than the pain we bring on ourselves by our own bad choices, we knew the plan, and we chose it, and the experiences were tailored for us specifically to help us in our personal growth. If we miss the point we may have missed the whole point of our life, our reason for being here, and won’t grow from those experiences. We may avoid, forget, or not know, to say to ourselves, this must be an experience I am supposed to have for my growth in this life. This is part of the plan for you and me to learn because we, and/or someone else who is going through this experience with us, could learn no other way. If we will press on through the pain and pray to God to know what it is that we and others are to learn from this experience, little by little, line upon line, it will be revealed to us. Our Father in Heaven wants us to know, but part of the process of knowing, and gaining faith, requires that we pray to Him and seek to Him for that knowledge and understanding. It will not come to us in a fast food, McDonald’s restaurant, on demand, made to our order, kind of way, but eventually in a way that we will understand if we humble ourselves to get the message.
What then is the value of life? For me it is not measured in wealth. It is measured in how we impact people for the good, including ourselves, and our own personal growth in becoming like our loving Father in Heaven who we admired, desired to grow to be like, praised, and worshiped before we came here, and who we claim to worship.
I have a question now for everyone in this audience and I would like you to respond to this please… Those who have been impacted for the better in any way, who have been kinder to someone because you thought of Rachel, or you decided you could be happier than you were because you saw how happy Rachel could be in spite of her challenges, or you helped someone in need of help because your heart was softened when you thought of Rachel, would you please raise your hands. (Hundreds of hands raise in the audience.)
What then is the value of Rachel’s life? What is the value of her life to you? What an incredible impact from one little handicapped girl who could not walk, talk, eat, or even go to the bathroom by herself. Most of us will go through our entire lives and never have such a far reaching positive impact on so many people in so many ways. Did she not teach us? Did she not give us eternal knowledge and a greater understanding? For me the knowledge and understanding Rachel gave me has immense value.
We read in the Bible,
“1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was bornblind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (Read John 9:1-3)
Why then was the blind man born blind? Did this man sin or did his parents? This is a question I have asked myself many times. (When you have a child like Rachel many questions go through your mind concerning guilt and blame.) Jesus answered His disciples, “…that the works of God should be made manifest…” As a side note, did you notice that the disciples asked did this man himself sin that he was born blind? How could a person sin so he would be born blind? This would be only possible if the disciples knew that there was a life, an existence, before being born on this earth, where there was a possibility that they thought he may have done something wrong to warrant the suffering of being born blind and brought this on himself. That means that the disciples knew that there is a life before we came here. The answer again was that “the works of God might be made manifest.”
What are the “works”/acts of God? They are acts of goodness, of growth, of blessing. You, yourselves, by raising your hands, are a witness that the works of God, works of good, your works of kindness have made God manifest. You are the evidence of Rachel’s life’s value. We are the ones who give value to Rachel’s life by the positive changes we make in our lives as a result of knowing her’s. On the other hand, if we do not make changes for the better, as a result of the sacrifices she made, then we devalue her life, her sacrifices, and her suffering.
By this standard, those of you who raised your hand, who were taught or impacted for the better, for whom Rachel served as a catalyst in your life, to be nicer, kinder, more self sacrificing… you know the value of her life. No one needs to explain it to you. Rachel was not a victim of God… on the contrary, she did as Christ did, and voluntarily sacrificed a life of comforts, of her own free will and choice before she came here, to help me and you to be better people. As Jesus Himself said,”… if it be possible remove this cup, nevertheless…” but He made the hard choice and so did Rachel.
The scriptures tell us, the “…first shall be last; and the last first…” (Read Mark 10:31, Luke 13:30). “For he that is least among you all, the same shall be great” (Luke 9:48) And again the scriptures say, “…the meek… shall inherent the earth.”, and “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (Read Matt. 5:4-5) I didn’t understand these scriptures fully until we had our daughter Rachel. I believe in an upside down world where those in this life, who appear to be at the greatest disadvantage, the weakest, are in fact the bravest, courageous volunteers who came to serve as a tool to teach the rest of us to be compassionate, if we will do so and if we will listen. There are “Rachels” everywhere, all around us, all the time. If we will seek them out we will learn from them. How we treat the “Rachels” of the world will determine how we are judged.
The Lord said: (Matthew 25:31-46:)
31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed [thee]? or thirsty, and gave [thee] drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took [thee] in? or naked, and clothed [thee]?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] not to one of the least of these, ye did [it] not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Rachel came to be part of all of our tests to see how we would respond to the weakest of all of God’s creatures. Jesus said, “…It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones…” (Luke 17:2)
Why is this true, because if our hearts have grown so hard that we can’t respond in a humane, caring, loving way to someone like Rachel, then we truly are past feeling and past the point where God can work with our heart to change us for good.
According to our faith, Rachel did not need baptism. Our latter-day prophets have told us that she didn’t need her sins washed away through baptism because she did not sin and she will go to the Celestial Kingdom of Heaven. How is this possible, we might ask? You and I came here to learn, to be tested, to have to make all of these tough choices, to see if we would live God’s commandments. Rachel goes through her entire life not making one single conscious decision, that she can be held accountable for, or judged by, and yet she will go to the Celestial Kingdom.
Without a knowledge of any other factors it would appear that God had already predestined all of us thinking people to one fate or another by how He chose to place us on this earth, and another fate for Rachel. You look around at the suffering and the apparent economic and societal inequities on the earth, and it doesn’t fit, doesn’t seem fair, unless you understand that Rachel was courageous, truthful, brave, self sacrificing, and faithful before she came here… then things make sense, and her life then makes sense, and answers the question… why? The only way that this can make sense is because of the way she lived before she came here.
Unless you understand this concept much of what you see on this earth won’t make sense. It doesn’t seem fair that one person would be born into one life with seemingly no challenges and another person is born into a completely different life, geography, time, family circumstances, financial circumstances, or extremely difficult challenges, then, boom, they both die and then judged based only upon what they did on this earth and then given either eternal joy or condemnation for eternity? How can that be fair? How can it make sense?
How do you compare a life like Rachel’s, a life full of pain, with no accountable decisions with that of another person’s who seems not to have any real challenges but has to make many decisions for which they will be held accountable for in the judgment? It does not matter whether you believe that a person will be judged after this life and make it to heaven based on their faith, or their faith and works, Rachel does not fit into either category, or does she? The scriptures tell us that before Jeremiah was born he was called to be a prophet.
“4 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Read Jeremiah 1:5)
How was this possible when he had not yet even lived to show himself worthy? The only way this was possible was that he already had lived worthily in pre-earth life before he was born in earth life. Like Jeremiah, Rachel had grown more advanced than you and me so she did not need the same kind of growing experiences that you and I need. She had progressed to the level that she did not need the same tests as we do to grow and be proven faithful while on this earth.
There is virtually no way in every case for us to truly determine what are blessings in this life and what are curses. Our placement in time on earth, placement in family, etc. were all determined before we came here to maximize our personal life mission, whatever that may be. One person’s blessing may be to be born blind. Another person’s blessing may to be born rich, not because of the money, but because of the challenge it represents for the person. Will they learn to use wealth for good? Will they learn to become unselfish? For me, a blessing on this earth can be defined as an experience given to us, by a loving Heavenly Father, that is designed to help us, or someone else, grow and overcome some weakness in our character so we can become like Him.
Likewise, a “curse” from God is also a blessing given to us by a Heavenly Father designed to help teach us because we will not respond to anything else. By this definition, is great wealth a blessing or a curse? Is blindness a blessing or a curse? With our limited minds there is no way to know. God’s ways are not our ways, and because there is no way to know for sure there is no way for us to judge others fairly. Judge not lest ye be not judged. Why was this man born blind… did this man sin or his parents…? Both seemed like a logical answer but both were wrong.
We simply do not have enough information to judge. I pray to God to know my specific mission in this life time. I hope we will all do so, to learn what specifically it is we were to learn in this life by coming here. Please don’t throw away your life, or Rachel’s life, by stopping progression at the point of pain or a life only of pleasure.
By reviewing our lives and identifying good things that we find difficult to do, we will discover many of the things we came here to specifically learn. Please give value to your life, as Rachel’s valiant example taught us, and have the courage, as she had the courage, to make the hard choices.
Please bear with me for a moment while I talk to Rachel directly, who I know is with us and can hear me. Thank you so much Rachel, you brave, loving, valiant, courageous, perfected, precious burden, my little pumpkin head. You have taught me more than anything else could. You have been our family’s spiritual anchor. Your suffering was not in vain. Rachel, I reverence your name. Because of the testimony of both ancient and latter-day prophets, and my own testimony, I know that you will be restored to your perfect self in the resurrection to run, jump, dance and sing. I pray that we will live to be worthy to be with you. Until we meet again my angel, my hero, I love you. In the Holy name of our loving Heavenly Father and our Lord, our example, who also suffered and sacrificed His life and died for us, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
To disguise my noble sphere, a crippled body I chose,
ideal for my earthly mission,
to teach all those who would help me on my way
God’s eternal path, and then to shed our strife,
through the Savior’s atonement and resurrection,
to rise after this wink of life,
and embrace in perfect joy,
to run, jump, dance, and Sing!
(The above is written on Rachel’s headstone by her father)
Value of A Life
Written By David Burton Copyright © 2003
(May be copied for non-commercial use.)