ast November, I wasn’t too surprised to hear the topic of an afternoon radio call-in program was Brittany Maynard, a terminally ill California woman who moved to Oregon to take advantage of the state’s death with dignity law and end her own life.
The fact that an attractive young woman made this decision caught the media’s attention and reignited debate on the issue of physician-assisted suicide. Her story also caught my interest, having gone through the slow and painful cancer death of my own wife.
The first caller said that Brittany’s husband should have talked her out of her decision. He was sure that her husband would regret losing her before the last possible moment. The caller said that he would give anything to have one more hour with his wife. I’m sure that is a common attitude, especially if the loved one has died suddenly, but it is not my experience. I would give anything to not have experienced the last week of my wife’s life.
As I see it, Brittany gave her husband a gift. He will not have memories of his beloved gradually losing her mind and control over her bodily functions. He will not have memories of watching the person he loves most moaning in pain. He will not have memories like the ones I have — of vomit and bedsores and things so horrible that I cannot bring myself to type them into this keyboard. He will not have memories of reaching the point where he started wishing that his wife, his partner of 38 years whom he loved with all his heart, would die. Those memories don’t go away; they come back in dreams and nightmares.