In light of the recent suicide of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year old woman who was diagnosed with brain cancer, I decided to re-post an article about a friend of mine who, just like Brittany, was diagnosed with brain cancer and died this past May.
In the months leading up to her suicide, Brittany became the face of the right-to-die movement. She and others believed that choosing to end her own life was somehow a noble and dignified cause. I would like introduce you to another face–the face of Tracy Mathis, a wife, mother and friend who chose to live and give us the privilege of loving her in the pain and suffering of her disease.
I’ll admit it, watching someone die of a terminal illness is a very scary, hard thing. I have seen it up-close and personal with my father who died of liver cancer, a most beloved aunt who died of pancreatic cancer, and most recently with Tracy. To see disease ravage the body, mind and spirit of another human being that you love is excruciatingly painful, especially when you know there is nothing you can do make it better. But there is also something transforming in the experience.
Spending time with Tracy, interacting with her and listening to her share her struggles about the disease forced me to get outside of my superficial mode of living. Likewise, holding my aunt’s hand and wiping her brow, sitting with her as she writhed in pain, and listening to her last requests gave me a unique opportunity to learn how to love in a way that I could not have otherwise. I believe that Brittany’s decision to end her life came as a result of living in a very plastic, superficial society; where anything that looks less than perfect is unacceptable. We live in a part of the world where vulnerability and weakness is shunned and where pain and suffering is a disgrace not to be tolerated. Anything short of perfection and beauty has little worth and should be discarded.
As scary and as painful as it was, I’m grateful that my friend had the faith to stay the course and allowed us, her friends and family, to love her in her pain and suffering. She is my hero! Below, is a copy of the original piece that was published in DCHE Dispatch.
Thanks for reading.