Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pain and Anguish

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. As such, I hold sacred the life that I have been given since Jesus himself said in John 10:10 "I come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

To be blunt, I can't fathom a situation where I would want to voluntarily end the life I have been given. Of course it's easy for me to say that here and now, as I am as healthy and happy as I've ever been. But what if I were enduring an overbearing physical or emotional pain to the point where I would do literally anything to make it all go away? I'd like to believe my faith would see me through and I would cling to the belief the God's ways are much higher than ours, that He sees the end from the beginning. As Romans 8:28 says "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

I guess that's what makes it so difficult for me to adequately convey my feelings regarding the decision of a young Oregon woman.

This spring, 29-year-old newlywed Brittany Maynard learned that she had terminal brain cancer. After careful assessment of her prognosis and end-of-life choices, she and her family reluctantly decided to move from their San Francisco Bay Area home to Oregon, one of five states (including Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico) that authorize death with dignity.

Brittany recognizes it is unfair that the vast majority of people cannot access death with dignity because they do not have the resources and time to uproot their family, seek appropriate medical care and establish a support system.

As a result, in the few weeks she has left to live, Brittany wants to advocate for access for death with dignity in California and nationwide in partnership with Compassion & Choices, the nation's leading end-of-life choice advocacy organization.

Am I the only one slightly offended by the phrase "death with dignity?" The implication being that one is somehow soiling his/her life legacy by choosing to pass away naturally even though there's no possibility of overcoming one's terminal condition. Again, I can't help but think about how Jesus Christ suffered and died so that we might have eternity in Heaven, a place where there's no more sorrow, no more pain. To me, enduring what may seem like unbearable physical anguish for a relative "whiff of time" would be well worth my great reward for eternity.

With all that said, I am not here to condemn Brittany, but to pray for her. It's the same mindset I have when a woman has an abortion. I refuse to shame that person for her choice, but rather reflect on the tragedy of such a decision and thus praying for those left behind.

One argument I've heard in favor of Brittany making the decision she has is that it spares her loved ones the heartbreak of seeing her in such a feeble physical state. Brittany would likely be so heavily medicated that her family wouldn't be able to carry on a dignified relationship with her in the last days. When I heard that, I couldn't help but think of our friend Anne Neu, whose husband Jon was diagnosed with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease) a little over a year ago. Anne, along with she and her husband's five children, have chosen to chronicle this journey via a blog.

Anne's post Sunday was perhaps the most poignant perspective I've read yet regarding Ms. Maynard's situation.

I've been thinking a lot about the young woman who has chosen to end her life due to terminal cancer. Perhaps you've seen her story? My heart breaks for her and her family. She is far too young to say goodbye.

But my heart breaks for her family in another way as well. I'm so sad that they won't get the opportunity to care for her, serve her and love her through her illness....and that she won't get to experience that kind of love.

I am so grateful for the time my kids and I get to have with Jon. I'm so excited that my children will experience and give Christ-like service in a way most children do not have the opportunity to give. My heart is so full of love when I think of taking care of Jon in the way that he deserves to be cared for. I am so grateful for the many lessons we will learn (and are learning) through this process... humility, strength, faith, gratitude... the list could go on and on. I am so grateful that while Jon's body fails him, his heart and his love will not fail my sweet family.

I am so grateful that we will experience the fullness of whatever God gives us.


It is my sincere hope and prayer that Ms. Maynard's family (as well as Brittany herself) can still experience what Anne has conveyed. It's not too late.


1 comment:

The Neus said...

Brad, Thank you for including my thoughts among yours. And thank you for the kind words. I share the feelings you expressed as well!