Like most Australians, I am implacably opposed to the death penalty. The older I get, the less I can bear the thought of anyone dying. The more I realise how precious life is, how lucky we are, how much we waste this precious gift with our ingratitude and ceaseless striving for more.
I don’t want Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to be shot by firing squad. Or soldiers to die in Iraq or other theatres of war. Or children to be run over in driveways and roads, or locked in hot cars. I don’t want women to be raped, beaten and murdered. I don’t want small children stolen from quiet cul de sacs and never found again. I don’t want cyclists killed by careless car drivers or young people killing themselves or others in despair or drunkenness.
I can’t control any of it. None of us can. We can stand by the sidelines of the media carnage and weep silent tears of loss and helplessness. We can rant and rage on Social Media and demand that someone, somewhere (not us) does something. We can turn off the 24 hour bombardment of information and opinion and meditate on our own small lives and multiple failings and try to live consciously, instead of carelessly as so many of us do.
But how can we tell whose death is too soon or ‘had their whole lives ahead of them’? How could we know what the purpose and soul journey of that life on this planet is? If Luke Batty hadn’t been so brutally murdered by his father, would Rosie Batty have had the courage and strength to become a beacon of hope for women in desperate situations of physical, verbal & emotional abuse? Maybe Luke’s purpose was to sacrifice himself for the greater good of children and women of Australia. Maybe he died so we would sit up and take notice and force Government to do something positive – to heal the justice system and policing and welfare which doesn’t know how to deal with this issue.
Maybe Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will politicise and polarise our disagreement with the death penalty and change the way we allow Australian criminals to be dealt with internationally. Maybe they will change the way we view prisoners and drug traffickers, and force us to see that every human has the potential for redemption if we can only make room and space for it. That from the greatest darkness can shine the brightest lights. Maybe on some soul level they chose that path and have walked it with due diligence and reverence.
Maybe the entire Australian judicial and penal system will change because they will forever light a beacon in our hearts of men who were incarcerated, who walked always ‘in the shadow of death’ and who chose to heal themselves and others by allowing their own inner lights to shine.
Maybe wannabe drug dealers and traffickers will think twice. Maybe there will be less pointless drug related death, maybe a young people will step back from the abyss of heroin when they remember the Bali 9, or more importantly, the Bali 2.
Maybe Reza Barati’s death was not in vain. Because when he died a nation united in shock, horror and revulsion at our treatment of Asylum Seekers. Little has changed yet, but the movement and demand for change keeps growing and one day we will process asylum seekers with humanity, dignity, compassion and open hearts.
Maybe Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson died in the Lindt Café with the express subconscious soul purpose of uniting a city which had lost its heart. Sydney had grown so big, bustling and cosmopolitan. It had forgotten how Australian it used to be. How welcoming and kind. Its inhabitants were so busy making bucks they had forgotten to know and love one another. The heart has come back to the city because those two brave and beautiful people protected others, stayed steadfast and strong and lit up a city, a nation and a world with their smiles and inspirational stories.
All those young men killed and maimed in the Great Wars, all those sons, brothers, fathers, uncles who never came back. We have to believe, and it is true that they died for us, for our freedom. Because they believed in what was true and good and right.
People die every day. In the simplest and most complicated of circumstances. Some die young, many are kept alive too long by the miracles of modern medicine. But who am I to judge. Or any of us. What any of our allotted lifespans should or will be. We only have today, this moment, when we know we are alive. What are we doing with it?
And who knows what impact our seemingly mundane and meaningless lives are having on others we come into contact with, or care for. We might have lit up a life with something we have said or done, we might have more to give, we might be almost done with our life purpose. Who are we to judge?