The Courage to Die with Dignity

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I was recently asked how I felt about the girl who was choosing to end her life on November 1st due to having brain cancer. I admitted that I hadn’t heard about the story and went on with my day.
Later that week, I popped on facebook and there it was posted on everyone’s feed. The story of a young 29 year girl who was choosing to end her life before her cancer killed her. http://www.people.com/article/Brittany-Maynard-death-with-dignity-compassion-choices
I decided not to read the article, but the next day the story hit all of the news channels. I still haven’t read the article or any article pertaining to this woman’s choice. But! I did listen to the 2 minute review of the interview she gave on CNN.
In her interview I heard familiar words and phrases such as…
Glioblastoma stage 4
“I desire to put myself through less physical and emotional pain and my family as well.”
“I want to be surrounded by my family and husband listening to quiet music.”

This is the exact brain cancer my mom passed away from. My heart broke for this young lady. I stopped for a moment and could not bring myself to judge her heart. “I get it,” I thought to myself. “I completely get it.” Everything she heard about and was told about this cancer, and the way it would take her life, was true. It is scary. It is a horrible death and it is absolutely awful to watch a loved one die any death. Brain cancer is no different. It’s awful. It’s slow. It leaves a daughter at night pleading to God to “just take her mom quietly tonight because the agony of watching her slowly die was heart-wrenching and too much to bare.”
So, I completely understand this young lady’s desire to have some control over the way her life will end. The unknown is always scary. Her motivation to “keep her family from having to watch her die this horrible death” is from an innocent place in her heart. I can see that she deeply cares for others. I see an over-consuming fear and lack of hope in her that is leading her decision. I can not blame her. I do not blame her for wanting this, desiring this.
However…..
From one family member to another, who has seen someone die from this disease- her decision will not solve the problems she is desperately wanting to have control over in the end.
Avoiding the pain of the unknown will not lessen her fears or the pain of her family.
My sisters would agree with me in that it wasn’t just the last days of my mom’s life that was difficult. The ENTIRE process of losing my mom was difficult. The seizures, the paralysis, her inability to communicate, were all painful to watch and walk through with her. There was absolutely no way to avoid the pain that brain cancer brought my mom….that’s how slow moving it is.
This sweet girl is trying to control one set of issues, but in return will create an entirely different set of issues for her family.
The “what ifs” will still plague her family.
The pain will still fall upon her family and they will still have to walk through the unimaginable grief of losing her.
In the midst of their grief, there will be a day when they will be begging for just one more moment…even a bad moment. One last moment, one extra minute to hug her body while there is still life left in it. They will cry out in the most excruciating pain, with tears running down their face, begging for that ONE LAST DAY.

Will she go more peacefully if she take a little pill and falls asleep? Probably
But, here’s the reality of it- the doctors can and will give her morphine and other pain medication during the time her life is ending. She CAN still be in her room surrounded by her family and husband. She CAN still have soft music playing in the background. She can make it so that she is in a medically induced coma. This is how my mom went. There was a beauty about it. She was peaceful, and her last smile on earth was her first smile in heaven.
Peace filled my parent’s room for one reason and one reason only…the Lord.
He was present.
He was there.
His comfort and peace filled the room.
He allowed beauty to shine forth in the most heartwrenching time of our lives.

My mom was in a coma for a month before passing. Was it difficult? Absolutely. Was it something I eventually had to work through in counseling? Absolutely. IS it painful to relive those moments? Of course! But I can also say that the memories of her last year of life dimmed in the presence of time. The bad memories were swiftly taken over by the years of good memories; and the good memories during the last year of her life have been marked by milestones in my faith where God has shown me His character more clearly.
During the last month of my mom’s life the Lord provided for our family with special moments only graced by Him. He was faithful to shine down goodness despite the darkness surrounding us. My mom woke up for a few days during that month she was in a coma. It was during this time that the Lord provided our family with a time to say goodbye. It was also during this horrific time that my most treasured moments with my mom were born.
Because of the location of my mom’s cancer, she had lost her ability to
Speak clearly
Think clearly
Remember clearly
She couldn’t even remember my name; much less make out a sentence. But, in the moments she had awoken from her coma state she awoke singing praises to Jesus. She grew up playing hymns on the organ in her daddy’s church and she went into heaven singing praises.
Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and Obey.

My Jesus I love thee, I will love thee in life, I will love the in death. And praise thee as long as thou lendest me breath; And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow, If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.

During these moments she also spoke clearly her favorite verse- Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.

So, here’s my response…
Jesus is real. HE is alive. He can still make goodness shine in the darkest of moments. If this sweet woman wants to live and wants no more pain- reach out to the One who fully heals. Walk right through the pain, into the loving arms of our Lord. Put your trust in Him by believing Him. Put your hope in Him and TRUST Him to do for you what you so desire…resting peacefully in bed with your family sitting next to your bedside as you leave your last smile on earth and extend your first smile in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This, my dear sister, is courage….the courage to die with dignity in the face of fear while extending your heart to trust Him.

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4 thoughts on “The Courage to Die with Dignity

  1. Elaine

    Becca Axtel, this is soooooo beautiful and deep and heartfelt.
    May God bless you for your words..,,,,
    I’m proud you 🙂

    Reply
  2. Alan AXTELL

    Becca…..no one could have said it better. You are an awesome daughter! God has blessed me with three of the most awesome daughters. Looking forward to seeing in Heaven! Dad

    Reply
    1. Rachelle Whitworth

      Becca you are absolutely amazing with words! I am proud and blessed to have you as a cousin! Love you.

      Reply

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