This must be my ‘Issues Month’. This one has been rolling around in my head since it hit the news. I tossed it back and forth before I sat down and hesitantly jotted some of my ideas and feelings on the subject. Nolan and I talked about it, intently, for days. At the end of the day, what I write here is not just an opinion but an actual belief. I fully believe in what I am about to state and I do know that it will cause controversy.
With that said, I want to issue a friendly warning. I will not tolerate negative and nasty comments on this subject. Nor ones of extreme dissent that take the form of attack. I will do my best to present this as something that is open, loving, and supportive. You don’t have to agree, but we are ALL grown ups. Play nicely.
This topic has roiled in the news for a few months now. It has churned in my heart too, and finally both a friend and my husband asked if I would speak on it. I reluctantly agreed, not because I am afraid of the fire but because I do so respect choice, privacy, and the difficulties life puts in front of us as being our own. I took notes, read websites, the news, worked out a few different drafts….
Until I finally decided on a letter. I hope to find a way to deliver this to the person it is intended for, in time. To me, there is a difference between making a choice out of fear and making it out of respect and love for those in your life. I believe this person intends the latter. None of us have a right to judge character, actions, or intentions here. We cannot cast stones, but we can pray that this person will move through their choice to find compassion, mercy, and grace.
To Brittany and your family,
In this crazy world, we will never meet.
It’s just that we have something in common and that is the same kind of brain cancer.
I had it when I was a toddler; obviously things went alright, I am still here.
Mine remained an easily removed astrocytoma.
There have been life long side effects.
I don’t mind.
I am thankful for that.
(No, this is not me begging you to rethink. Just wait.)
Then, then Christmas before my 30th birthday, I was diagnosed with a terrible form of ovarian cancer.
I kept it secret for awhile. I wanted to wait until I knew if I would walk away from this or not.
Clearly, I did.
I repeated ‘None of us find as much kindness in this world as we should’ to myself every morning.
I made it clear that whatever happened, I would make the choice that was kindest to my family, my loved ones, and myself.
I do not think there is glory in waiting to die painfully.
I have watched people die of what we have as they struggled until they end…..
It did not seem a measure of God’s grace nor did I find comfort in a long and gruesome death.
There is precious little time to appreciate those final moments, days, smiles, because we have no choice over where and when our death occurs.
I am an exception to a hard and fast fact.
The two kinds of cancers I suffered and the health issues that came with….
Very few people recover and I grateful that I am blessed.
But I am more grateful that there are women, such as you who validate the idea that there are choices with terminal illness.
You are not picking an easy out and we both know that any solution has a price.
I am exceptionally proud of you.
If I had walked out of my appointment, almost 3 years ago, and had been told that my prognosis was fatal, I would make your choice.
I would let my husband and children remember a happy mom who treasured every last minute and did not succumb to illness.
If my prognosis with brain cancer as a babe had been like yours, I would have wished an easy, fast death for myself so that my parents did not suffer.
You are giving yourself the chance to leave this world with a smile and that is an important thing.
I do not find death to be graceful or kind in these situations, or so many others.
As Tony Kushner once wrote, ‘It is only a painful sort of progress.’
Many people are shocked that I support you.
My dad committed suicide in a way that brutalized my mother and I for years to come.
I was raised Catholic, and I fought my way out of a grave.
I have no right to make your choices or decide that your peace is.
This is your life and death.
I only hope that you have no pain.
I hope you go to sleep that night and open your eyes to a beautiful, blinding blue horizon of promise and no sickness.
I hope your family is well and finds peace, in knowing this choice was made out of love.
I hope you fall asleep knowing you are loved and that this small act made a world a different place.
What people get so very wrong is that idea that we are the keeper of other people’s choices.
We are not and it’s contrite to think that. It cheapens the idea that we are our own stories.
Do I believe that God has a plan for each of us and that there is a struggle we each have?
Perhaps. But I cannot decide what your plan is or was.
You went through so much.
We do have the right to walk away.
I believe in you.
I want your family to see what I do.
That waiting to pull a plug in a hospice room can be the most awful thing you ever have to do.
There is something better for you when you finally choose to go to sleep.
Do not let anyone tell you any different.
Good night, to white shores, glitter, and sparkles,
I have wrestled with this issue long in my heart. But, I do not walk her walk. I can only say that I have faced such terrible things in my life that I don’t begrudge her and nobody should. We are not those who keep her soul safe and if one is Christian, then we believe she will receive salvation for putting her family before herself, choosing to be compassionate and kind, and possibly even approaching God through prayer about this decision. We can never know and that is fine. It is also fine for us to not agree and back away. As I said, her life is not yours- not to even judge.