Book reviews

Aaron D. Cobb’s Loving Samuel: Suffering, Dependence, and the Calling of Love (Cascade Books, 2014)

Those who advocate infanticide (the killing of the handicapped newborn) would despise Cobb’s account of the brief life and death of his son.  The rest of us normal people, however, recognize the beauty of the child’s life as seen through the memoirs of parents and a sibling who loved him.

Cobb’s biography of his son Samuel, who lived for five hours after birth, is not only a moving account, but also a deeply philosophical investigation of the value of suffering.  For the emotional impact of the book, I highly recommend reading these 118 pages.  I guarantee that readers will find some questions addressed and answered.  For the philosophical power of the book, I offer these quotes and some commentary.

Making the most of their time with Samuel, Cobb recounts “the weekly visit in which we took Micah [the couple’s first child] with us so that he could hear his brother’s heartbeat and see the ultrasound” (17).  Anti-lifers would recoil at these words, knowing that technological advances continue to make the pro-life case more effectively than mere words in argumentation.

The “We can avoid suffering by refusing to love well” paragraph (beginning on page 23) reads as a testament for those who assist the dying and fight for the value of all human life, especially the handicapped.  Of course, Cobb’s point is that “Choosing to suffer in these times is a sign, an indication of something deeper, something good, something worth pursuing, something worth upholding, someone worth valuing” (24).  Cobb’s affirmation of the value of love is repeated throughout the book.

I applaud Cobb for bold statements such as “There are in fact great goods in our dependence, in the recognition of our limitations, and in our burdening of others with our lives” (54; emphasis added).  When did society abandon the idea that the so-called “burdens” we supposedly hoist on each other are bad things instead of, as Cobb points out, opportunities for us to manifest our love for each other?

A final powerful quote is written by Samuel’s mother: “I’m supposed to be the mother of three children, but only one lives with me” (86).  (She had miscarried a child before Samuel.)  Every parent who has lost a child by miscarriage knows the pro-life truth that the miscarried child should be counted just as the born children are.

Finally, it is admirable that Cobb and his wife affirmed life when certain medical professionals recommended abortion (which, as Cobb notes, was euphemistically termed “interrupting the pregnancy”).  Some doctors, who should be intelligent, simply cannot understand that abortion is not a cure for any child with Trisomy 18.

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