Value of Life by Esrie Grant

     Many have lost a loved one or know someone who has. It is hard. The mourning, pain, and suffering that is experienced through death seems to never go away, and the empty feeling in one’s heart can never mend. Why then, may some feel like a certain price can be put on life? Life in itself is valuable, and everyone should value it. Some never get the chance to live their life to the fullest, and others may face extreme challenges along the way. Despite valuing life, however, some continue to feel that a compensation of a loss can be paid out for life. Life is something sacred that no amount of money could ever compensate for.
     Despite many factors that can impact one’s outlook of life, a key player in those factors is illness. There is a well-known psychological behavior explained by Walter Cannon. It is known as ‘fight-or-flight.’ It refers to the idea that the human body, under a threat to life, will either flee or fight the attacker. In a sense, that is also similar to the decision one makes about life once they face a threatening illness. They can either flee from the illness and give up, or they can value their life and fight back. However, if they are anything like Roger Ebert, they would choose the latter. Roger Ebert, despite facing cancer throughout his mouth and losing his ability to talk, had an extremely positive view on life. “These things come to us, they don’t come from us.” (Jones).
     Ebert believed that it was not his fault for being sick, and he was right. Someone who could rightly agree with him is Steve Jobs, another cancer victim. Many will recognize Jobs from his creation of Apple, a multibillion dollar company, and it was because of his love for finding his purpose in life that much of the technology the world uses exists today. Jobs very much valued the life he was given. In his speech to the students of Stanford, he explains, “I was lucky—I found what I loved to do early in life” (Jobs). Despite facing pancreatic cancer which he battled for a decade before losing the fight, he remained hopeful. “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. … There is no reason not to follow your heart.” (Jobs).
     Clearly, life cannot be given a price when the person who passed has accomplished so much for so many. However, what about someone who had the rest of their life to go? What about Tamir Rice who was only twelve years old when he was shot down by police after being considered a ‘threat’ for carrying a BB gun? It may be easy to say life is something everyone should value, but actions speak louder than words. Sadly, in Tamir Rice’s case, it was evident that his life was less valued than most. “One of the officers, Timothy Loehmann, shot Tamir within ‘1.5 to two seconds’ of arriving at the park” (Blow). Many can point to race being the main cause for the discrepancy, yet race does not determine the value of one’s life. At one point in time, America considered a black person to only be counted as three fifths of a person, however that was in 1787. Since then, America has taken a hundred steps forward; however, when a situation likes this happens, it feels as if America is taking several steps back. Tamir’s sister faced the pain closely when she was not even allowed to give him the critical attention he needed. “She raced to his aid, but as the video shows, one of the officers tackled her, handcuffed her, and stuffed her into the back of the police cruiser, just feet away from where her brother was bleeding out onto the snow-dappled ground” (Blow). Everytime a life is taken under nonprobale causes, and especially the fact that it was such a young life, makes so many wonder how could a price ever be put on such a thing.
     Despite not being able to bring one’s life back, some loved ones feel that they need a large sum of money in order to compensate for the life lost. An interesting outlook on these people’s ideas is those of who lives were affected through 9/11. They were offered a check of around $300,000 for their family members who fell victim to the attack. Yet, despite seeing the payment as compensation for finances, these families took it as the government trying to buy their pain; and they wanted more money. “Gerry Sweeney, whose brother died in Tower 2, floor 105, points at Feinberg and explains why $250,000 is not enough for pain and suffering in the case of her now fatherless nephew” (Ripley). However, no amount of money can make their pain go away. The money is not to pay for a family’s loss, it is to pay for the financial struggles they will face because of it. Because of their assumed greed, many other Americans who donated money feel attacked by ones not being appreciative of what they got. “‘My tax money should not be given to someone with $750,000 mortgage to pay …” (Ripley).
     Could a person, or authority, put a price on a motivational speaker and critic who cannot talk, a computer genius who founded a big part of the world’s technology, a twelve year old who had the rest of his life ahead of him, or a victim of the governments breach in security? No. Some compensations are more than others, but that does not mean money value can be placed on one’s life. Sadly, sickness and age may come into play when the government compensates for the loss. However by no means does that mean the government is saying that is how much someone’s entire life is worth. All in all, money cannot determine the value, the preciousness of life.


Works Cited
Blow, Charles. “Tamir Rice and the Value of Life.” New York Times, 11 Jan. 2015,

Jobs, Steve. “Text of Steve Jobs’ Commencement Address (2005).” Stanford University, Stanford University, 14 June 2005,

Jones, Chris. “Roger Ebert: The Essential Man.” Esquire, Mar. 2010,

Ripley, Amanda. “WTC Victims: What’s A Life Worth?” Time, 6 Feb. 2002, content.,8599,198866,00.html.

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