I just learned several days ago about the young woman in Oregon, Brittany Maynard, who has chosen to end her life on November 1st of this year. If you don’t know the story, you can read the rest of this piece or go to her web site.
Her story started with headaches, minor at first, and then stronger and stronger until they were unbearable. Who knows how many times she went to see a doctor. Think about it, every time you go to a new doctor, you just want him/her to tell you that the previous six doctors didn’t know what they were talking about – you’re gonna be fine.
But it’s not, at least not according to the seventh doctor. Maybe an eighth?
Brittany’s condition was one of those rare beasts which asked the medical professionals to reach into the dusty section of their bookshelves, and thereafter figure out how to tell the family the unpleasant news.
“You have cancer – one of the worst.”
“Six months at best.”
From a social standpoint, can it get worse? Sure. She’s 29, and she just recently got married.
The short and sweet of it is that Brittany thought about it and thought about it, and in the end decided she didn’t want to put her family through that. With the support of her family and friends, she came to her own decision, that she would end her life on November 1st this year.
In understanding Brittany’s story, I look again at the silly notion that some countries have suicide is illegal, or at least any attempt at suicide is illegal. Why? I don’t get it. Okay, don’t kill anyone else; yeah, I get that. Every person life is their own and no other person has any other right to take the life of another. Got it.
But what’s the deal with making it illegal for someone to take her/his own life? What do you care? I don’t mean that disrespectfully, but if someone wants to go, there’s no one, family or otherwise, who has any right to tell them that they’re not allowed. Their life is their own.
I find myself in admiration of those who see their road ending prematurely and choose to ride it out to the end, simply because its their road to walk and no one else’s. They don’t want to switch paths; they don’t want to ride on someone else’s path; and they don’t want to spend the time trying to go against the Universe and make a completely new path – one the Universe never intended them to have in the first place. There is a great deal of admiration I have for these people. Aside from Brittany’s tale, how many of these types of people have you heard about? It’s not all that often that we get to hear of people who take full responsibility of their lives at all costs.
The reason I say this is because the goal for most in our society is live a long life. We often forget that along with the ‘long’ bit we want to live a healthy live. It’s not so much important to live long as it is to live well. But that’s beside the point. The thing is, in her video she talks about what she’s doing to enjoy life before she passes.
She talks about what it is like going through this. Her parents talk about it, how hard it is to deal with it, and amid all of it, there is a constant return to how much pain there is involved. But the pain mostly comes from her parents (her mom). Brittany herself seems to be at peace with it all, which seems natural in a sense. It’s sort of the kind of strength one would expect her to show considering her state.
She has talked about what she has decided her final resting place to be, where she will pass, who will be there, the music that will be playing. It’s almost romantic in its finality.
We wonder, when we hear stories like this, what it must be like for the family, her husband, certainly, to whom she has been married for a year now. What is it like for them, those who will be around her when she passes, being there with her, to hold her hand and watch her transition from the world of the living into whatever comes after that.
It’s weird even for me, to write this about her here and now. I’ve never spoken with this girl, never heard of her, and if she weren’t terminally ill, I probably wouldn’t think twice about her. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, of course, but just seems like it’s the truth. But here I am writing this about her now, and I feel somehow connected to her. Not that we understand each other, but that there is a wavelength, a thread, somewhere in the picture, the picture that none of us have been able to make out in our human history. I feel connected to her in that I’m connected to all of us, as we all are connected to one another, and I am saddened by the forthcoming loss of a piece of my spirit. John Donne said it so poignantly in his poem No Man is An Island.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
Each man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind,
I write this in celebration of Brittany Maynard. You inspire me and I have a great deal of admiration for you. Thank you for another reminder of how beautiful and precious life is. May blessings and love sing you into eternity.