From Blog Posts to News Articles, Brittany Maynard is being heralded as both “Courageous” and “Cowardly”. One question I have is, what is her favorite color?
If for some strange reason the only national headlines you have read the last couple weeks or months were of the World Series, November Elections, and Ebola then you might have missed the Brittany Maynard story. Brittany Maynard’s controversial choice to die by prescribed euthanasia has brought to life a spur of emotion from those who agree and disagree with her decision. The idea of “assisted suicide” or “prescribed euthanasia” or “death with dignity” is without a doubt one of interest to me as a person. This has nothing to do with the fact that I’m religious, but has everything to do with the fact that I watched my father as he fought what became terminal cancer. For the better part of 2 years, my father endured a losing fight with lung cancer. He fought to the point that his body finally said, “enough” and shut down all at once. During that battle, it seemed that every inch of good news was immediately followed by a yardstick of bad. Looking back, one of the greatest joys of my fathers fight, was that he got to see me surrender to ministry, graduate high school, and complete my first semester of Seminary. However, if I think back to the 19 years that I had with him one question has me stumped to this day. What is his favorite color?
Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of things about my father. I know his dream car was a Jaguar XJ8 and that he loved to play Ten Years After’s “I’d love to change the world” on guitar for my mother. At this moment in time however, I just can’t seem to remember his favorite color, but I believe it to be blue or green. So what does this mean for Brittany Maynard? It means everything… Below I have written 3 things I would have said to Brittany Maynard if I had been given the opportunity.
1. You mean more to your family alive than you do dead
I can remember when my father was in his last weeks of life. There were times that he was so drugged up on painkillers that he just sort of existed on the hospital bed. He didn’t talk, didn’t move, just lied their unconscious and struggling to breathe. As much as I wanted him out of pain, it hurt worse when he would skip a breath because for that half second I always thought he was gone. Oddly enough, I grew to be comforted by his breathing. Yes I wanted him out of pain, but I didn’t necessarily want him out of my life. The comfort of seeing his torso rise and fall in distressed breathing is sadly a comfort that I have not felt towards him since his passing on January 11, 2008. Even if he was unconscious, even if he was in pain, even if he was at a point of being without dignity, his breath meant he was still alive. Yes, his strength and courage to face insurmountable odds were heroic, but at the end of the day I didn’t want a hero I wanted my dad. In that moment, each passing breath meant more to me since he was alive than his death could ever mean to some non-profit organization. One of the most common claims Brittany made was that she wanted to “Die with Dignity”. I recognize that there may not be “dignity” in cleaning and helping your father(or loved one) off the toilet when he doesn’t have the strength to do it himself or helping him into the bath tub because his oxygen tank tube got stuck on the couch and he soiled himself. I can’t imagine the horror that when through my dad as his sons and wife became full-time caretakers in addition to full-time students and full-time workers. The fact remains. I love my dad, and to serve him in that way taught me more about having compassion and making the hard choices than fighting to let him end his life through assisted euthanasia ever would. This is only ironic because the company that Brittany Maynard was wanting her death to raise awareness for calls itself “Compassion and Choices”. The truly sad thing is that they can only profit off her story if she chooses to die. I went to their main website (they have one specific to her fund but I didn’t see it connected to their main site) this morning and combed through the small amount of information they have of her. Obviously, they have an extensive amount of details concerning her illness but I found nothing of her life. This makes sense because they don’t make money off her life, only off her death. On that page I can find the name of the cancer, but I can’t find her favorite color. I can find what state she moved to so that she could die by choice but I can’t find her favorite music (although they referenced that it was her desire to listen to it as she died). I can’t find any thing that tells me about her life, I can only find that which tells me about her death and how that promotes the mission of their organization.
2. You are taking away any hope for a miracle
Outside of my belief of biblical miracles, medical miracles happen every day. In today’s medical society, even a .01% chance of survival can be enough to draw the line of life and death. To take a pill and make that decision absolute means you are taking away all hope for a miracle. I remember a scene from I, Robot, starring Will Smith that may better explain my point. About halfway through the movie, it is discovered that Smith’s character was involved in a car wreck where he was saved by a robot against his demand that the robot save an 11-year-old girl named Sarah. Smith starts by saying, “It calculated that I had 45% chance of survival. Sarah had only an 11% chance.” Followed by, “That was somebody’s baby. 11% is more than enough. [A] human being would have known that. Robots [have] nothing here [as Will Smith beats his chest implying a heart] just lights and clockwork.” Brittany, you are somebody’s baby, somebody’s wife, and somebody’s friend. It is my opinion that any chance of survival, “is more than enough.” No matter how small the percent, the hope of a miracle is more than enough. In medicine, it is never absolutely 0% until you have passed and regardless of what Brittany’s percent was, it could have been enough worth fighting for.
3. There can be beauty in suffering
This statement is purely rooted in my faith. The phrase, “Death with Dignity” has been tossed around a lot with Brittany’s story, and many people have fought it tooth and nail from both sides. The word that has drawn me in the most was the word, “Compassion”. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” This organization may be named, “Compassion” but God is the “Father of compassion”. He is the source of it! One of my favorite Jesus quotes from the bible comes after his life, after his death, and after his resurrection, and even have his ascension. (bet you didn’t know he said something after that). In Acts 9.
“1) But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2) and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3) Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4) And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5) And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”“
Jesus was the living embodiment of compassion. His compassion for his flock is so immense, that even after he is freed from the physical ills of this world, after the pain and disgrace of the cross, he still feels the pain of his brides persecution. He doesn’t say, “Why are you persecuting my followers?” but “Why are you persecuting ME” (emphasis added). Jesus relates and is in community with his people when they are in suffering, more so than any non-profit organization could. Jesus feels the pain of cancer with us, and feels the disgrace our loved ones endure during that season of suffering. The joy in suffering is only present when we are in fellowship with the father and manifestation of compassion which is God and Christ.
Brittany, although I never met you, I long and hope that you met Christ in your short time here on this earth. I will continue to pray for your family as they mourn your passing amidst the controversy. Regardless of my personal opinion, to minister is a greater desire of my heart than judgement is. Even still, judgement is not mine to pass, but love and compassion are. Brittany, my final statement is this:
You are loved, and you are missed.