Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old woman, is all over the media right now because of her violent, terminal brain tumor, which is expected to take her life in less than 6 months, and her decision to eventually take a pill that will end her life peacefully instead. I’ve watched her videos and read several responses to her decision and spent all morning thinking over this tragic story that is so far removed from me, and I don’t know what to say. I feel like I have a good sense of both sides’ arguments and I know where I should stand, but I don’t know where I actually do.
How would I feel if I went to the doctor and heard something that harrowing? Would I want a bunch of people sitting around arguing about whether or not I was a coward for wanting to hold on to the last bit of power I had? For not wanting to suffer unnecessarily? For wanting not to succumb to paralysis and losing control of my bodily functions? To be in limbo between weeping and powerlessness and terror and have a slew of able-bodied strangers plead with me to keep living and tell me to suffer through my sickness would probably tempt me towards rage.
My heart cannot completely agree and still, I cannot say that these people are wrong. It hurts to watch people call it “sin” and “selfish” and “weak”, but aren’t we all? Aren’t we all dying? Aren’t we all grasping at cliff-side twigs as we free-fall towards death? Snatching fleeting moments of comfort from our food and our electronics? From our alcohol and music? From our relationships and religions? Trying to push death to the back our consciousness, or at least dull ourselves to its power over us? Trying to avoid suffering, blaming others for theirs, and refusing to see it may be some fault of ours that it continues? Who are we to so brazenly pass judgement on another person if we are not lifting a finger to ease their burden?
How much of this post is me rationalizing my own fear to suffer like so many people expect her to? Maybe I am afraid to tell a truth I am not prepared to live myself. Maybe I’m afraid that I’ll have to have this conversation with someone in person one day and be responsible on much larger terms to suffer through a slow death beside them. Maybe it’ll be someone I didn’t want to live without. Maybe it’ll cost me some sacrifices I didn’t want to make.
Either way, I just needed to write it out. Maybe I’ll get my answers one day. I hope I have enough valor and faith to live them all the way through.