Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Choose To Live

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By now you may have heard of Brittany Maynard - the 29 year old who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and is choosing to die on November 1st, 2014. She moved to Oregon so that she and her family can take advantage of the Death with Dignity Act, and received the sedative that will end her life. She is married, and is her mother's only child. Somehow she is being hailed as a hero but something in me does not sit right with all of this.

All of us have had dark days where at some point we may actually think we're better off dead. The irony of life is that when you're dealing with something in that moment that's all of you have - the culmination of experiences leading up to that point. The beauty of life is to have survived, and look back in amazement, with new strength. If you hadn't overcome you wouldn't be where you are today. By choosing to die, you are shortchanging yourself of all the good life has to offer; the yin and yang; the growth and reward; the trials and overcoming.

But even when you don't overcome, you grow, because you realize life isn't perfect.

Choosing to die at a time that's convenient says I get to take my life in my own hands. I get to determine my perfection. I get to quit. The ultimate fallacy is it fools you in to thinking that you are really in control - when you're not.

We are not totally in control of our destinies, God is. [Job 14:5, Psalm 139:16] By choosing to die, you're trying to take over something that you have no control of, because you really don't know what death will bring. Death is a huge unknown; death is more uncertain than dealing with a terminal illness.

I also believe dying with dignity is a crock. Dignity is ideal but death isn't always dignified. Sometimes it's sudden or gruesome or painful. More importantly, since death is inevitable we should be prepared for death, but not in a controlling way but rather as an inevitability that we all have to face.

When my brother left this earth after 17 years of a long terminal illness one of the things that struck me was that he was no longer here. He didn't have to be perfect to be missed. He just needed to be here and he no longer was. He could no longer make an impact on those around him. He was gone. It didn't matter if his fingers were perpetually curled, or his skin had darkened, or he could no longer move - he was a presence in his house. He could still communicate with his family members the best way he knew how. The others around him were learning also - how to deal with adversity, how to smile, how to deal with pain, how to be tender and compassionate, and much bigger lessons. Lessons that were absorbed but were never spoken. He may have been diminished physically but he still had a lot to give, as the gap that is his death proved.

Diagnoses aren't final; as far as we know my brother outlived many people with his illness by at least 10 years. In this way, he made his doctors think and ponder all they knew about his illness. His living provided a challenge so that they could help the next person.

Do you know that dark days don't last forever? I know that's not a fair comparison to a terminal illness but everyone has something that they are dealing with.
What if everyone who had a terminal illness chose to die? What if the beauty is in living? Who says one has to be perfect to enjoy life or make a difference? 

I hope Brittany has a change of heart and lives as long as the days that were allocated to her.


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