I was so happy to read that Brittany Maynard has chosen to live a little longer. Brittany has terminal brain cancer and decided to engage in either physician assisted suicide or some other right to die method of her choosing. She has recently chosen to put off her scheduled departure.
She is an inspiration to both those who wish to have the right to die on their own terms and also to those such as my mother and sister who fought against death to the very last breath.
My mother fought a very long battle with COPD and was not afraid to die. At the very end, she fought very hard to stay alive. Her last three weeks of life were spent in a morphine induced coma and I slept on the floor beside her bed every night and taking care of her every day. As painful as the whole experience was, I would do it all over again. The whole experience was a blessing that only those of us who have given our lives to a loved one could understand.
My sister died from brain cancer which had originally metastasized from breast cancer. She too wasn’t afraid of death but fought to the very end to live. She decided not to take morphine for her pain management and opted for other herbal methods (we need to vote in politicians who understand this). Despite being bed ridden, my sister insisted upon going on a camping trip and the family carried her and her bed out to a campsite near a lake and a few days later, that is where she died, peacefully watching a sunrise.
Both experiences have taught me two lessons which can be summed up in these two quotes by Henri Nouwen:
“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.”
“Blessed are those who suffer. Not because suffering is good but, because they shall be comforted.”
Regardless of the path Brittany chooses, she is an inspiration for both those who wish to have the right to leave this world on their own terms and for those who fight to stay as long as possible.
If Brittany decides to fight the battle to the bitter end, she won’t be a burden to anyone, but a blessing and they wouldn’t have it any other way.