My dad always said, "Opinions are like assholes, every body's got one". May we realize opinions are easily formed in ideal circumstance and so seldom remain when all the tides have gone and changed.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -A whole lot of people are talking about, opinioning (yes, just made that a verb) on, ruminating over the choice of one 28-year-old terminally ill woman, Brittany Maynard. For those of you who have been spared the painful arguments and many articles both criticizing and praising her the gist is this: she has a very aggressive, lethal brain cancer that will kill her regardless of her course of treatment. There are options available to her to attempt (that's an important word) to extend her life span, but those do not come sans side effects.
Some are saying euthanasia, others suicide. Some bravery, others cowardice. No one is walking in her shoes, some close -yes- but, I repeat, no one is walking in her shoes.
At 25, I cannot imagine, cannot even begin to fathom hearing that baby making should stop (because they were trying to conceive when she was diagnosed) because chemotherapy must start. I cannot imagine having the first few scans done and having a curable (though by a narrow margin) cancer progress into a lethal diagnosis.
Similarly, at 25, I couldn't imagine walking around the halls of a memory care unit with my father who resembles more of a skeleton than the man I grew up calling Dad. I couldn't imagine walking down a hall hoping he's still upright and moving instead of expecting his jolly salutations in the home he built. I couldn't imagine my heart dropping every time my phone rings and her name is on the screen, the nerves of saying hello and not knowing what news comes from the other end. I couldn't imagine wishing for death.
Some are saying he's fine, others hope for a cure. Some bravery, others annoyance. No one is walking in my shoes, some close -yes- but, I repeat, no one is walking in my shoes.
Doctors told us he's a ticking time bomb, he'd die within the first year after diagnosis. They offered this medication and that, peddled supplements and iPhone apps, saying we can try and keep this process from moving as fast. No promise of survival because fatal isn't kind to one's life. We tried this and that and all the in between and, he died, that healthy, fun, dad I knew. He died long ago when his work ethic, his humor, his larger than life presence disappeared. And now we're left with this shred of a man, a man that's a ticking time bomb who has ticked two years too long.
Had my dad -the healthy, vivacious man that he was- had the choice, he'd have spared us this suffering. He'd have passed knowing every one of us, telling us goodbye, holding our hands one at a time and looking us in the eye with an awareness of our last words. He'd have passed without sallow cheeks, sunken eyes, skeletal proportions. He'd have told me he loved me just one last time.
Instead we walk a long, ugly road. A road that offers him no peace, no solace, and no reward. A road that's offered us nightmares, that's stolen not just his memory but ours too, that's replaced memories of our healthy, fun-loving dad with the deepest experiences of honest suffering. A road that's stolen his humor, his dignity -every last shred, his passing surrounded by loved ones and replaced it with suffering, confusion, and final moments in a room full of strangers.
Fatal diagnoses. They're suffering in themselves. The choices, the conversations, the preparing one's self. It's terrifying, it's humbling, it's real life shit. So why, in our self-righteousness, must we add our opinions to the mix? Instead let us pray, for Brittany, for my dad. Let us pray for their peace, for their passing, for their families. Because, right now, the last thing a family such as these needs is another person telling them how to do hard things.
“Someone who thinks death is the scariest thing doesn't know a thing about life.”