Brittany Maynard, the beautiful 29 year-old who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and stage IV cancer, has taken her own life. According to the latest reports, she died at her home surrounded by her loved ones after taking a lethal dose of medications prescribed by her doctor. She viewed herself as a spokesperson for Death with Dignity laws, which are currently available in only a few states. In her mind, taking her own life was a way to maintain some control over her dying, and she wanted to end her life before the cancer drastically affected the quality of her living. Dying with dignity, she said, was a way to keep the cancer from “taking so much more” away from her than it already had.
She was determined. She was pretty. She was well-loved and looked after. But, one thing she was not, in the moment of her death, was dignified. Because dying is the ultimate source of indignity. Dying is the proof, in fact, that humanity is at odds with God, that we are rebellious and glory-seeking and ashamed. Death came upon us like a tidal wave on the day that human beings decided we know better than God. And, ever since then, the waves have washed over us, one by one by one.
Brittany believed a lie that somehow she could escape the indignity. But, as she swallowed those pills and drifted off to sleep for the last time, she was just setting in motion the indignity of coming face to face with the Creator of the universe. The God who caused great prophets and giants of the faith fall on their faces in shame, crying, Woe is me! There is no dignity in that moment. There is no gold star to pin to your vest, no proud hour as you suddenly gain the full knowledge of how far your existence is from the perfection of a holy God.
It is the ultimate indignity. The highest of all humiliations. It is awe-full. But, it doesn’t have to last forever.
I don’t know what Brittany’s or anyone else’s positions are before God. It is His job to see the heart and judge accordingly. But, I do know that for those who know Christ, after the indignity comes the moment of assurance. The moment when God speaks, when He says the word Mine. The moment when all indignities end forever. Because for His own children, there is only love. Acceptance. The lifting of a shamed head hung low, and open arms.
The concept of dying with dignity is a farce. We die humbly, as beggars before the King of Kings. But, when we know that King as a savior and friend, we can die with hope. We can die with peace. And, we can trust that God will wash away every indignity with the blood of His Son.
What a beautifully written article.
I get where the author is trying to go here, and while I can agree with the basic principle of the article.. I don’t think This young woman was talking about meeting her maker with dignity. She wanted to leave this earth with dignity and those two concepts are very different! I believe that when AFTER we have left this world we will meet our Heavenly Father with humility not indignity.. Indignity implies shame and I don’t for a second believe He would want to shame us! Just my opinion!
But isn’t shame how we really should feel about our sin and imperfection? Doesn’t standing before a holy God and recognizing our sinfulness automatically make us want to cover up (see Adam and Eve)? When we face our God and judgment we see our sin for what it truly is – and it ends up leaving us in a pool of shame and guilt (see David). For the believer, we will be rescued from that shame. For the non-believer, that shame will be present for eternity. God is not the one that shames us. Our sinfulness shames us. Our God is the one who restores us and clothes us with His righteousness to take away the shame. I am looking forward to my holy clothes!
I am not sure that I grasp where the author wants to go. I totally aggree with your own perception. Those moments are totally distinct in timing and in essence. I do not know if the adjective dignity is thebest word to describe that either. My own son died of a rare type of bone cancer at eighteen years old, after three years of treatments of all sorts. Being young he wanted to fight all the way. I accompanied him through it all. He was a firm believer and accepted the degrading transformation of his body to the end. The Lord sustained us wonderfully in many ways and send along many marvellous people to whom my other son and I are forever grateful.
But , the toll on my own mother, myself and specially my other son has been heavy.
I do not judge Brittany. She also is extremely courageous. To leave this life on earth fully conscious and without the awful physical ,mental or moral pain that some desease cause is however an issue to be considered.
A few questions reccur often in my mind:
* why do human beings keeps killing other human brothers ( greeds, conflicts or war) leaving others dead without choice while still thinking that to take one’s life seems the worst?
* why do we still think that the suffering of others is allright no matter what?
*Will we ever know the number of people that have chosen to stop their suffering just as Brittany but simply did not mention it to anyone?
Are we aware that often times it has occured all over the world that relatives take the decision with the drained parents without the knowledge of the patient. Often when the insurance no longer can cover the cost?
The Lord knows it all. He has seen all of it. He knows both my son and Brittany before they were born. He understands it all. He probably received them both with joy because they have both fulfilled the mission He had sent them on earth for. Forgive the poverty of my style and words, English is not my first language. Also forgive my typing errors.
Alzire – I’m sorry about the loss of your son. What a sad journey. I’m adding you, your mother, and your other son to my prayer list. When you said the Lord sent people into your life to sustain you, it is such a testimony of Christ’s promise that we are comforted in our time of need. I pray you continue to be comforted. God bless you for sharing your story and your own compassion in the face of deep grief and sadness. Your English is great. I would never have known it wasn’t your first language. God bless you.
Thank you for this. Her story has bothered me greatly, and your words express it well.
Her story breaks my heart. The whole thing just breaks my heart. This fallen world and then enemies dance upon her breaks my heart. You wrote this beautifully. I try so hard not to judge her as I am far from KNOWING what I would do if given such diagnosis. But my heart can’t help but wonder how she may have encouraged others who are about to walk through that valley of death. How God could have worked through that had she not taken her life into her own hands. How a miracle could have been witnessed by the world. Could have. Maybe. Maybe not.
From the clips I watched of her, I don’t think I ever saw her mention God. That broke my heart too. Would she have done anything differently if she had known him? I don’t know.
It is sad. So very sad. Disease is sad. Pain is sad. Suffering is sad.
But this I do know. My daughter was given a death sentence when she was four. She is now 13 and “should” be gone. But she walks, swims, runs, laughs, plays, and learns. She lives. It is not easy. The path has not been easy. But it is the VERY path God has shown Himself to me in the mightiest of ways. It is the very path where I questioned my faith, let go, and He caught me. It is the very path that keeps me on my face before Him and begging for Him to live in me. It is the very path that has brought the most grief and yet the most praise in our family.
For that, I am thankful. And I am so thankful for the Presence, faithfulness, and mercy of the Lord. I could not have continued this path without Him.
When I first heard this story it of course bothered me a great deal, and then I thought I am not in her shoes so who am I to say she is wrong for her decision. But, she had never said anything about God, I wonder what her beliefs were. But I do think God knows when he will take us and that’s not our call, it’s so terribly sad and I feel horrible for her family.
Scott Will Do
Did it ever occur to you that if God is ready for you to enter his kingdom, however you get there doesn’t matter be it by your own hand or sometime else’s. We’ve all become conditioned to look at someone who takes their life as less than. You do not know anyone’s life path or God’s plan including your own. For some life is so painful physically or mentally and there is no hope. If it wasn’t her time to go she would not have gone, all of our days are numbered it’s not if we die it’s when. Live your life and let others live without your judgement and petty ideas. God is all, your mind is too small to even comprehend, but maybe you’re heart isn’t as small. Let her soul rest and worry about your own.
Very well said
So very well said.
A difficult subject, indeed. Perhaps there is no such thing as dying with dignity, but there is such a thing as dying with faith. The world laughs and scoffs at the Christian, but death brings us all down to the same level. I have a dear friend who is, as far as anyone can know, on the last few steps of her journey in this life. She has ALS, after suffering a lifetime with lupus, is fully paralyzed and unable to talk. We visited her just a short while before her speech left her, and her cheerful spirit and demeanor blessed us far more, I’m sure, than we blessed her. She lived in faith, and now she is dying in faith. Soon she will be with her blessed Lord and all that will be gone and forgotten.
What is forbidden in the sixth commandment? The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life or the life of our neighbor unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto. WSC Q 69 expounds on the sixth commandment. We are not our own. What a tragic story.
You should not judge another even if you could walk in her shoes, pray you never have a dasease like that where you have to see what’s coming from watching it happen to another, and if it’s that bad of a life and all that pain I don’t think god would want any person to suffer anymore than they have to, it’s her choice to leave before being to crippled to help herself and have to live though all of the conditions.
What is the difference between what Brittany did and having a morphine drip that keeps a person unconscious until they either die or overdose, which is generally what happens in the final stages of terminal illness… Is God cool with a morphine drip or are we all required to blast into eternity with a bottle of whiskey and a good stick to bite down on? I guess you would know as you seem to have the 411 on him. Your post is bizarre and lacks compassion. You even attack her because she is attractive. Being young and pretty doesnt change a cancer diagnosis…. She’s dead now. Maybe consider praying for her family since you are a self-publishing expert on all things religious. You say you are a Christian? Where is the grace?
The difference is that one is a death of natural causes and the other is not. Allowing someone to die naturally (letting nature runs its course) is different than taking a drug to kill oneself. Whatever someone thinks about her death it is much different.
A morphine drip isn’t natural. It’s modern medicine meant to ease pain. In the final stages of life, often patients are given control of their own morphine drip, which does sometimes result in death. It is another form of euthanasia. No one has a problem with that…. This woman endured her cancer until she was having unbearable seizures. She was at the end of her life. It is unkind to portray her as a cavalier person without faith or conscience. She was a person who travelled around the world working as a teacher in impoverished areas. To reduce her to the status of a murderer, which is the tone of this blog, is crass and lacking in compassion.
Your dogmatism is astounding. You don’t “know” what will happen the moment of your death. You “believe” what will happen. Big difference.
Thank you Melissa. This is absolutely the best I’ve read regarding Brittany Maynard. This is written with such grace and truth. No doubt you will have those who disagree with you, but be encouraged. For every dissenting voice, ten are blessed and challenged because of your words.
I feel like you should do a little more research into this subject before you write an article slamming this woman for ending her impossible pain and inevitable death. She was diagnosed with a horrible cancerous tumor that people do not survive from. She consulted with many doctors and the remaining 6 months of her life were going to be horrible painful. Death and dying is something that isn’t spoken of very often because people are afraid of it; they don’t want to confront it. Though death is inevitable, it doesn’t mean that it is in God’s hands. Not everything belongs to him, and our life is ours and ours only. Regardless of what your religion makes you believe; there is such thing as a death with dignity. There is no ‘grace and truth’ in your article, it is in face very disrespectful to the memory of Brittany. There are many books available on this topic….I suggest you put your blinding religion aside and read one. I just feel like this is incredibly insensitive and lack of any compassion or knowledge of what really happens in the last months of someone’s life when they have a terminal illness.
Melissa, this article amazes me; probably that’s why it is a blog. Have you ever visited a hospice facility (at the least) and sat with a family member moments before they’ve taken their last breath and not been able to experience the sacredness of death? Have you ever ministered to a dying loved one in their own home while laying in the comfort of their own bed? Death is as much of a sacred experience as is birth! Do you believe our magnificent Creator of everything that exists does so in less than in pure, unadulterated LOVE? These bodies are temporal while our Spirit is everlasting. To place such emphasis upon the body is not a blessing but a curse! This article is based upon your personal belief that “..dying is the ultimate source of indignity”. God is the Light at the end, not the tunnel through which we might travel to get to the Light!
Beautifully put Trish!!
you obviously miss what they beautiful child was conveying. as a hospice nurse for many years I have seen the suffering of my patients because family did not understand the dying process. after counseling family members, which were very few, they then understand death with dignity. NO ONE deserves to die gasping their last breath, in such horrid pain. God did not intend for us to suffer. why do you think he provides research on meds for comfort? because that is what is all about. I would not let my mother or any one I love die such a horrible death. have you ever watched a person with brain cancer die? I did. she had no meds on board and its cruel and in humane. she did not kill herself, she made herself comfortable enough to die. I apologize for being so emphatic, but can not tolerate ignorance when it comes to this issue. I AM a child of the most high GOD, and he blesses me daily. please do research before you judge this child. YOU ARE NOT GOD> HE IS OUR ONLY JUDGE. may the LORD open your eyes and heart. good grief we put our animals down when the are dying!! she only wanted COMFORT.
“Compassion & Choices, a major assisted suicide advocacy group, has exploited the illness of Brittany Maynard to promote legalization of doctor-prescribed suicide in the states,” Jennifer Popik, legislative counsel for National Right to Life’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, said in a statement.
My thoughts exactly!
I am hoping Melissa, that you or any of your loved ones never have a fatal illness that drags on for years – with no relief. My best friend is in the process of dying with dignity now – both she and I are Christians and have had many discussions. It has been so hard for her to be in so much pain (stage 4 cancer that has spread).
There really is nothing medically to be done now. I support her decision. I also know the God is the essence of love, grace and comfort, only HE knows her heart, and sees her pain.
when she takes her final breath I know He will be with her to welcome her into heaven. I agree God is the ultimate judge – man has no right to determine how another should act – especially when they do not know of what they speak. I also lost my older brother to suicide – totally different situation.