Death with Dignity

Brittany, Maynard, Death, Dignity, Compassion, suicide, Dr, Gary, Davis, Needinc, Clueless, Christian, HemmingwayDeath with Dignity— Brittany Maynard, 19 November 1984 – 3 November 2014

(CNN)—  Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old who said she had terminal brain cancer, took medication to end her life under Oregon’s ‘Death with Dignity Act,’ advocacy group Compassion & Choices said Sunday.

“Brittany chose to make a well thought out and informed choice to Die With Dignity in the face of such a terrible, painful, and incurable illness,” a post on her website said. “She moved to Oregon to pass away in a little yellow house she picked out in the beautiful city of Portland.”

In a statement, Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life choice advocacy group that has been working closely with Maynard, said she “died as she intended – peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones.”

 

Brittany Maynard was an incredible young woman. She lived her life as she saw fit. And she ended her life as she saw fit; not enduring the agony of a terminal brain cancer, but rather choosing to die with dignity, foregoing further deterioration and suffering.

Some years ago my friend Tom faced the same choice. At age 24 he started feeling like something was very wrong. It was. His body was spotted with all kinds of cancerous cells. Like Brittany, he too made it almost to his 29th birthday, dying just 3 days before. Unlike Brittany, Tom chose to endure the pain and suffering, the loss of mobility and, eventually, mind. His death, too, was surrounded by family and friends.

Why did Tom make his decision to suffer to the end, rather than to end his life with dignity? Tom trusted in God for his life and did not believe he had a right to tamper with the decision to end it.

So, what is it to die with dignity? In Brittany’s heart and mind she believed she made the honorable, dignified decision. Tom made a different decision. Was his death any less dignified than Brittany’s? This comparison raises a serious philosophical question. Death is a complex issue. Who is the final arbiter of our passing? Soldiers sacrifice their lives for the lives of their comrades-in-arms; family members willingly put their lives on the line to save a brother, a sister, a child, a wife. But giving your life for another is not the same as taking your own life. The first is sacrificial; the second is self-centered.

The question is— Do we have the right to make the decision to end our life? In many ways I can understand Brittany’s decision. In so many other ways, I cannot. It benefited her tremendously, I suppose. But it also deprived those she loved the experience of processing her death with her; through pain, suffering, disorientation, and the end. But can we truly call it death with dignity when her death was actually assisted suicide? She believed she was dead already. I believed she deprived those who loved her from their responsibility and joy of caring for her to the bitter end.

Determining the morality of Brittany’s decision is something we need to discuss in this culture. Her choice should give us pause about our own ethic, or lack thereof, when facing our own mortality. We really do not want to think about such things until our own life is at stake.

If the truth be known, we chose not to think much about anything smacking of ultimate realities. It is simply much easier to let life carry us on from one event to the next. This is not very smart. Sooner or later we will all have to face the tougher questions in life— some sooner than later. But if we do not face them, life will seem very cruel when it takes us by surprise.

If we accept Brittany’s choice to take her own life (suicide) then we have progressed (?) to the point of convenient functionality in our society. If your father is failing, help him end his life. If your child is dying, do the same. Or maybe we need to establish a maximum age, say 70, beyond which the elderly are deemed non-productive and useless in contributing further to our society.

Really!?!

We have finally fulfilled Earnest Hemmingway’s social prophesy—

“Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

~For Who the Bell Tolls (1940)

Lives Cut Short


Wars take a terrible toll on countries, peoples, families, and individuals. Too many young men & women sacrifice their lives for what they believe to be the right way, the way of their country and/or their God. No matter the winner of the conflict, the cost to both sides is immeasurable.

Presently, our planet finds itself in the midst of another world war; not of nation pitted abainst nation, but of beliefs pitted against beliefs, with small cells of extremists attacking established systems of governence. Lives will be lost, thousands of them, on both sides, as this war rages on. It is the kind of war that will go on for decades, leaving the victors in exhausted glory.

However, there is another kind of war that cuts short the lives of men. It is the war of identity-theft. Far too frequently we tie our identity to some acceptance matrix; to a job, to a discretionary activity (sports, parenting, music), to a particular relationship, in ownership of property (wealth, houses, cars). We define ourselves in terms of other things—a position, athleticism, intelligence, motherhood, performance, wealth, even other people.

Then something happens to rob us of the identity we tied to our job, family, friends, athletic ability, etc. It may be as minor as a broken ankle, as devastating as a divorce, or as simple as aging. And our world collapses. Whatever it was that gave us our identity is no longer there. We are at float in a sea lacking any clearly identifiable directions. Your life, as you knew it, has been cut short.

For some of us, that is it: that’s all she wrote. It’s over. Whatever comes next looms as insignificant compared to what we have just lost. How can there be any kind of future for me?!?

Some things to ponder—

  1. Consider that the original foundation for your identity may have been established on an inappropriate underpinning, be that people, place, property, wealth, or ability. Placing your self-definers in stuff, or people, is never a good idea. It all burns up in the end anyway. [FYI- I’ve grounded my identity in the God of the universe. So far, this has proven a very safe connection.]
  2. Your present “tragedy” could be just the incentive you need to re-examine your identity baseline. Don’t forgo the opportunity.
  3. Don’t stop living. Force yourself to dream about what could be next. On a personal note, there was a period in my life when I believed I had developed failure to an art-form. But I learned a lot how NOT to mess-up again.
  4. Be on the lookout for God’s little surprises. He has a way of dropping new friends into your life, of healing broken bodies, and of healing hurting hearts with new love.
  5. Try to rest. Take walks. Think out loud. Don’t give up! If you’re still breathing your life is NOT cut short yet.

Have a nice week,

Gary

Aftermath


Tragedy
 strikes all of us at one time or another. Whether it be death of a loved one or the devastation of home & livelihood its effects upon us are shattering. The experience, the loss, is overwhelming; it crushes our spirit and sucks out our very life’s-breath. Most of us have experienced such tragedies in our lives, leaving us empty and numb. Words of comfort and solace barely get through my blank detachment.

Then comes the aftermath— sorting through the remnants of a life, trying to rebuild, trying to make sense of the physical and personal destruction that has just consumed every fiber of your being. There are the BIG things— replacing a home, a business, a livelihood; taking care of children, parents, employees, those who are crushed and exhausted. For some, it means even rebuilding a country after a catastrophic national disaster or defeat. Yes, these things must be addressed, even though your energies are already spent.

In some way, though, it is the small things that are more difficult to deal with— the loss of photos, of a history that was filled with joy and frivolity; a loss of trinkets, personal gifts, torn shreds of clothing that once draped a loved one in grace & beauty. Memories all, now gone.

It is in the aftermath of destruction & loss that our metal is proven. It is the manner in which we face the aftermath that we reveal our courage or collapse into a mire of grief & despondency. There is not always hope after some of the volleys life sends our way. But there is always strength to be found in arms of the God who created us, sustains us, and now carries us…, if we will but let Him do so.

Never discount the succor and rejuvenation that flow from the Life-Source of all Being. The God of the Universe— Jesus Christ.

Have a nice week,

Gary

…of bed-boards and springboards

Matanya

At this moment I am sitting by my mother’s side as she lies on a bed dying. She always preferred her bed to be on the firmer side. Not too much so, but sufficiently so. Bed-boards always make a soft bed so much more comfortable. She lies on such a bed at this moment. Not that it matters to her that much. She is in pain, breathing with some degree of difficulty.

She is leaving us.

Yet as she lies in this bed, she is also taking her first steps onto a springboard. This will be her launching step into a world filled with glory, golden light, and the exuberance of a new life, peace, and rest for a weary traveler. Each of us, unquestionably, will come to this point. The only questions are when, where, and how?  Will it be gentle, rough? Drawn out, or quick? Surrounded by friends & family; or alone?

Though we may wish it, this is not the case for everyone. The springboard does not always launch to a place of celebration—rather, it shatters, plunging its load into an abyss of captivity. It is a dark place where people can avoid each other; a place where they will finally get what they truly want—a world of total independence, with no responsibility to care for others. It is a world devoid of God, His love, and His perimeters of protection set in motion on this planet to guard its inhabitants from self-destruction. In this underworld those safe-guards do not exist.

It is now late into the night. I sit here alone with my mother…, waiting for her to take that initial leap from a springboard, propelling her into that new, exhilarating, vibrant life. For that has been her life’s desire, “to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

For some of my friends, my dear close friends, this is not their desire. Their desire is to have all that this world has to give them. And that is what they will receive.

I weep for them.

Sitting here, I am envious that my mother, so much the gracious servant during her time in this realm, will soon get to play and dance and sing in the courtroom of heaven. There’s just the matter of this human shell to discard.

It is true; we all will come to that point of crossing-over. For my mother, it will be from a bed-board to a springboard, to life. When our time comes to step up onto the springboard, what will be our next step? Where will we come down? And what must we do beforehand to prepare?

[On Saturday, January 19th, 2013, at 1:57 p.m., Florence Adelaine Andersen Davis, jumped into the arms of our heavenly Father; there to celebrate His glory forever. She was 97 years old, by our reckoning. I am soooooo jealous.]

Mom- 27 Dec 2012

Following in the family footsteps,

Gary

afterlife

Dr, Gary, Davis, Needinc, Clueless, Christianity, Christian, afterlife, heaven, death, What will you be like when you are dead? People have been obsessed with this question for millennia. Ancient Egypt established the afterlife as a destination, a passing over to another realm, at least for the worthy (or wealthy). Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259 BCE – 210 BCE) did take it with him— 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, all in earthy terracotta. Dante Alighieri’s 14th century Divine Comedy describes for us the Nine Circles of Hell (Dante’s Inferno)— Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Avarice, Wrath, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery; as well as a depiction of Heaven as the Four Cardinal Virtures— Justice, Fortitude, Prudence, and Temperance, coupled with the Three Theological Virtues— Faith, Hope and Love. Hinduism offers us Reincarnation, Islam— Paradise, Christianity— Heaven (or Hell, depending). And postmodern scientific uncertainty— well, uncertainty, or nothingness, or, just the end. Then there are those Near Death Experiences, when people seemingly return from beyond and tell us of visions of light, a tunnel, even Jesus. Hum. Oddly, they report that it is the little things in life, kindness, caring, touch, forgiveness, that truly matter.

What seems amazing, though, is how much energy we expend on preparing for death, or at least for retirement. It’s all about protecting ourselves, isn’t it. Nothing wrong with that, of course; but history reveals just how obsessive we can become with it. On the other end of the spectrum are those who live for the moment. Future be damned! Live for NOW. This disregard for the consequences of our actions, though oft pleasurable, has its own built in self-destruct machinery. Obviously, we need to establish a happier, more sensible middle arrangement.

Though most religions offer us some revelations of the afterlife, most can be considered to be speculative, metaphorical, or at best, scant. Even within my own faith, Biblical Christianity, the descriptions of the afterlife usually describe encounters with God the Father, Throne Rooms, Judgment, etc. Even if these descriptions are merely metaphorical, versus actual, they are enough to give me pause about my own position before a Holy God. Shouldn’t we be giving our energies to making a difference in this life, on this planet, in the lives of some of those we know, and some we don’t know— quite yet! I’m not living my life, being good, to avoid Hell, or to gain a reward in Heaven. I live my life as honorably as I know how, as compassionately as I can be, and as in line with the principles set-up by God at Creation for this world to run smoothly.

As long as I am alive, I want to be someone who makes a difference in other people’s lives. (I’ll probably drive God crazy when I’m dead.) How ‘bout you?

Have a nice week.

Gary