Major John Howard of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire light infantry landed in Normandy in a glider on June 6, 1944. His mission, as part of the first allied troops to land in the D-Day invasion, was to capture a key bridge and hold it until relieved. That is exactly what he did. For his efforts on that longest day he was awarded Britain’s second highest award. Major Howard was a true hero that day, fighting for what was right.

Major Howard died in May, 1999. He died just a short while before another true hero. This second hero not too many people knew about. Her name was Elaine Koller. She was a good CUF member who was stricken with the crippling disease of Multiple Sclerosis. In her final years she was confined to a wheelchair, unable to even hold her head up. Through all the discomfort, pain, and humiliation of not being able to care for herself, she never gave up. She offered up all her sufferings to unite them with the sufferings of our Lord. Until the end of the world, none of us will ever know the particular place she holds in God’s plan, or why such a dear sweet lady had to be so afflicted. She did not know the reason either, but she did the right thing. She continued on practicing the vocation to which the Lord had called her. To those who knew her, she was a daily demonstration of the dignity of human life, even in weakness, as well as the redemptive fruits of suffering. She did this day after day, year after year. She continued on with her vocation until the Lord called her home. Just like Major John Howard that fateful day, she held until relieved.

Elaine Koller will probably never receive honors of an earthly nature, but those of us who knew her have no doubt that she has received a heavenly reward that no earthly one can match.

There are some, including the empathy- challenged Governor of Minnesota, who claim that those in Elaine Koller’s position should not hold on, but give up and commit suicide. In the August edition of Good Age Newspaper, a newspaper designed for senior citizens, Mr. Ventura made some comments about suicide. He is quoted as having said about the topic; “From my own viewpoint, I would prefer to have the option there if I wanted it. I think you can only answer that question for yourself. If I am in so much pain and my life is so bad and it is going to deteriorate, and take all my funds, then I should be able to make that choice.”

Notice that those who want to get people to kill someone seem to love that word “choice”. Whether it is called a “choice”, or prefaced by “assisted” or given the fig leaf of some other title, suicide is suicide. It has always been the Church’s teaching that “Every human life is sacred, from the moment of conception until natural death.”(CCC 2319) It is therefore entirely consistent to condemn suicide. The Catechism states “It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.” (CCC 2280)

Suicide is an act of willful murder. It is an attempt to control the ending of our lives. Being in control is the mantra for egotists. It is the mantra for those who only care about themselves. It is the mantra for those suffering from the sin of pride. The more fiercely we demand to be in control of our lives, the more we will not allow God to be in control of our lives.

The end of our lives should come as God sees fit. The Lord will call us home in His own time and according to His own plan. It is not up to us to decide the time or the place. It is up to us to do God’s will as best we can.

Doing God’s will is sometimes difficult, sometimes mundane, sometimes trying. “Doing God’s will” is another way of saying “to serve God.” To serve God is one third of the meaning of life, which is: to know God, to love God, to serve God. It is this last part that Satan refused to do. He refused to serve, preferring to rule in hell rather than serve in heaven.

To serve is an abomination to the ultimate villain. To serve was the choice of the ultimate hero. Our Lord came to serve, (MAT 20:28) and to humble himself. Other heroes also come to serve. Some like Major Howard just for a few hours. Some like Elaine Koller, and those like her, serve for a lifetime.



Published by The Minnesota St. Thomas More Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, November 2000.