This weekend I read the tragic news of Brittany Maynard who took her own life by a fatal dose of barbiturates prescribed by her doctor as part of the Death by Dignity Act in Oregon. This story grieves me on so many levels. And I don't want to spend a blog post judging her actions, but reconciling in my own mind why such a decision would be made. She is being hailed as a woman of bravery and dignity, but I truly grieve for how she came about this decision.
First off, I can't imagine hearing the news she received, so I'm not going to say I wouldn't be tempted to ponder the same thing. I've watched people suffer and die from cancer. It's a painful, very difficult way to die. I would imagine most all cancer patients have the thought cross their mind, "I wish this would just end." I've also seen those people be brave and dignified even during their worst of sufferings. Even with my chronic illness of RA, I deal with pain every moment of every day in some form. It's not terminally fatal, but there is no cure, just treatment that eases the pain. Though in my weakest hours, I may ask God why or question the pain I deal with, and even, at very few times, wish it would just end, I couldn't ever see myself asking a doctor to aid me in ending my life.
There are two things in this world that are beginning to fade into non-existence. The belief in miracles and the belief in life. I have seen God do miracles in the most dire of situations and grant life to one that was told "you have no hope." What if that person had said, "I'm not in control anymore, so I'm dying on my terms." The beauty of a miracle is murdered.
Our belief in life is also slipping away. We don't create life, yet, we think we have control over life. The path of this Death by Dignity Act can take a very wrong turn very quickly. For Brittany Maynard, the world applauds her choice. What stops this from going further? The disabled child who can't see or can't walk may have parents who can make the "brave choice" to end their life since it surely won't be worth much anyway. We tread on dangerous ground when our control of our destiny overshadows the plans of our Creator.
I have watched both of my parents die. One who suffered long and one who suffered a short time. My Mom suffered long in her battle before death from complications from diabetes. Six years before her death, she lost part of her leg due to diabetes. She knew her ultimate outcome would be death, but she did not give up hope until she knew her Creator was ready to take her home. What if she could have chosen to end her life instead of lose her leg? She would have lost six years with my Dad and we would have lost six years with her. Did she want to go through the suffering she did? Absolutely not. Did we want to watch her suffer and decline? Most assuredly no. But she had hope. Hope that this life wasn't the end. Hope that God would relieve her of her suffering in His Time. And He did. Though I would never had wanted to watch her decline, I saw in her a bravery and dignity I'd put up against anyone in this world. I also was witness to what unconditional love between a husband and wife looked like. My Dad loved her more at her lowest than he seemed to loved her at her highest. I am thankful I was able to see that love in action. Her life was in her Creator's Hands...the One that made her and the One that would take her home.
My grief is for Brittany today. I don't know anything about her beliefs, or where she was spiritually at the time of her death. But, unless she had the hope of Christ, she chose a path where her suffering is far more greater than anything she would have experienced in the lowest of lows of cancer. That grieves me most of all.
Life is precious. Even in the suffering. May I be able to say, like Timothy, at the end of my life, whenever my Creator chooses to take me to my eternal home, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)