As mid-term campaigning winds down for this week’s election, I am reminded of how public debates can be divisive and subjective, with people taking sides and having strong opinions. But the public debate that most caught my attention was not who would be the next U.S. Senator or local influential politician, but was the story of Brittany Maynard’s “Death With Dignity” decision. Initially, I read a blog post about Ms. Maynard’s decision to end her life after through medical intervention after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and six months to live. The post questioned whether Ms. Maynard’s decision was a sin. Since I initially read that post, Ms. Maynard reserved her right to delay her decision because “it doesn’t seem like the right time right now.” And ultimately, she did make the decision on November 1 to die with dignity, according to People Magazine.
For me, Ms. Brittany’s decisions showed courage and bravery because she chose to experience the fullness of her life and began to intently pay attention to the small details in life. She did not sidestep the conversation about death but put a face on it and opened up her life for the world to experience her very personal, unscripted reality on national television. I make no judgments for or against her decision but instead respect that she took a stand that she believed in and helped to create national exposure about something that we all are going to experience in some form or another: DEATH.
No one really wants to talk about death; it makes us uncomfortable. At least until we are faced with it and have no choice but to deal with it. I imagine that Brittany and her family experienced many different emotions, but what was even clearer to Brittany was the physical and emotional pain she was feeling. Her body was shutting down, and to the extent that she wanted to experience some peace about dying, she found comfort in a manner that suited her best. It may not be the most popular decision, but it was her decision, nonetheless.
Of course, her choice made her life fair game for open, public debate and criticism about the right to die, death with dignity, suicide and, of course, sin. But were the debates for selfish purposes, like proving a religious viewpoint or perhaps in hopes of creating healthy dialogue about end of life decisions? Because this is what we really do know: we are all going to die one day! Hopefully, for us it will occur naturally and peacefully, but it could happen terminally or tragically. We just don’t know how death will confront us, and that’s something that can’t be debated. Instead, what we could individually consider debating is whether our marker will read “Lived intently and with courage” or “Lived in fear and with regret.”
How will your marker read?