Nicholas Coke was born in 2009 without higher brain functions. This is because all he had was his brain stem. He was not expected to survive more than a few hours. Indeed Nicholas did die -- two years and 11 months later. Today, the Solemnity of All Saints, Nicholas Coke breathed his last.
Nicholas defies the culture of death. Having no brain, was he not "brain dead"? Shouldn't he have been aborted? Shouldn't his organs have been harvested for the sake of "worthier" children? Yet his heart beat on its own; he breathed on his own; he could take nourishment and medication; he could respond to treatment; he moved; he grew; he smiled. Persons who are dead can do none of these things, with or without machines, to which Nicholas was never hooked up. Nicholas could neither see nor hear, but he gave signs of awareness that he was being held. Clearly, the child had a soul, and was therefore very much alive, even though his faculties were severely impaired. He had a soul, with all the gifts of the soul, dormant though they were in his frail body, even though he literally had no brain. That is not supposed to be possible -- yet there he was! Thank God Nicholas was born into a family that cherished his life. He was surrounded by love, and touched hearts in his turn.
Nicholas Coke is not only a testament to love and life, but also a rebuke and a warning. He is a rebuke to the arrogance of a society that purports to redefine death for the sake of convenience. He is a warning that we have made ourselves the enemies of what God holds dear, and that sooner or later we will have Him to reckon with.