It’s all over the news and social media. Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old woman with a terminal brain cancer, and a six-months-to-live diagnosis from her doctors, has died on her own terms, and by her own hand, right on the date she scheduled. It’s referred to as “Death with Dignity,” and an act of legislation by the same name gave her the right to do it.
Death with dignity.
I’ve thought about this a lot since she first announced to the world that she would die in early November, after her husband’s birthday. She didn’t want to have to suffer the end-stage ravages of her disease, or have her family go through that either. I get that, because really, who would want to if they were in the same boat? Who does want to see those they love endure that kind of torture?
But I can’t think of Brittany without thinking of those with whom I’ve walked that hard road. There’s my friend, Diane, for instance, who was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer that metastasized to her liver. She wasn’t given all that long to live, but she managed three more years. She suffered, yes, but she radiated hope. She laughed and loved, hard and thoroughly, and though she never gave up, she spent that time preparing her boys and her husband to live without her. She modeled bravery, and what it means to really live. During those three years, she poured into every relationship she had, spoke every word that needed speaking, and I dare say that not a one of us that experienced that time came away unchanged. When she died in her husband’s arms, her body was totally used up. She had wrung every last drop of life out of it, and she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen in that moment.
Then there is my friend, Trisha. When she was 25, she had a lump form in her nose. It turned out to be a rare T-cell lymphoma, and it ate away her nose from her lovely face, leaving her to wear a prosthesis. The prognosis was not good. After rounds and rounds of treatment, her only hope – a long shot – was a stem cell transplant. She was a fighter, and fought HARD. It was difficult to watch, but her determination and belief that a miracle would be hers was breathtaking to behold. It built the faith of every one around her. Eventually, she got that transplant, and today is alive and well and mother to two little girls who needed a home and a family to love them. She got her miracle, and remains cancer-free over ten years later.
When I consider these precious women, and the others who have changed my life by the way they walked out the end of their own, I wonder what we all would’ve missed had they picked a day to die. Trisha would’ve missed her miracle, yes, but is there not a miracle to be found in the process of dying itself? Is it not there, in the midst of letting go of this life little by little, that we see most clearly what real living and true faith are all about?
I’m praying for the family of Brittany Maynard, as they mourn the loss of a life gone too soon. As for me, I’ll be leaving my exit date in the hands of the One who chose my entrance. I’ll trust Him to walk me through every last one of my days, regardless of what they look like, and pray that He will use them for the greater good and His greater glory.
Because, well, when it comes right down to it, that sounds like a death with dignity to me.
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day. Psalm 139:13-16 MSG
Well said. My wife died of the same tumor your that Brittany had. She died with great dignity after fighting almost 35 months past when the doctor told her she would die. Rocky parental relationships were restored, I found Jesus Christ again, in all of her friends were encouraged watching her bravery, beauty and courage. She was and us my inspiration to lead a more fulfilling life.
Your thoughts well written. I,too, will leave my life in the hands of my Creator to bring me home, anything less would be suicide.
Powerful post Melinda. Thank you
I am trusting that God knew before He gave Brittany any days exactly what she would do and when, so the days that were written in His book ended exactly as they should. I think sometimes we forget that the verse you quoted Melinda doesn’t just apply to those that are in a relationship with God through Christ Jesus, but to every person that has, is, and will walk the face of this earth. I am sadden at what Brittany and her family missed, but at the same time thankful that she was able to cram some life into death, and that is the take away from this for me.