Right now there are two human interest stories all abuzz on the internet. One is that of the the “Bucket List Baby”, little Shane Haley who was diagnosed with a fatal condition in utero and his parents carried out a list of things they would do with him while his mother was pregnant.
Unfortunately, Shane did succumb to his illness hours after his birth but in his few hours of life he brought joy to his family, felt the warmth of human touch and his story has touched millions of people he will never meet.
The other is the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old woman dying of brain cancer who has chosen to die on Nov. 1st, to celebrate a last birthday with her husband and spare herself and her family the pain of advanced disease.
I was talking to an aunt the other day about some trials in life and she said “If your life is very comfortable, you’re not doing it right”. Life is dirty, hard and ugly. It’s tears, pain, sickness, sorrow. It’s these things that make it beautiful. Like a salted Carmel, that briny flavor enhancing the sweet.
Shane’s parents could have chosen to abort their terminal child. Spared themselves the sadness of carrying to term only to glimpse his face and hold him ever so briefly. They could have considered his “quality of life” and chosen to keep him from it all. Tried again for a baby that wouldn’t bring that kind of heartache.They didn’t. They took the road less traveled and decided to relinquish control. His mother bore the pain of delivery only to bear the pain of watching her son leave this earth shortly thereafter. But she gave us all hope, she gave her husband a son, her parents a grandchild and the world a story of Love. Not that, cushy, Love heals all wounds, poster kind of love but REAL sometimes Love IS a wound, Love.
Brittany and her husband moved to Oregon so that she could choose to die her way. She will celebrate one last birthday with her husband then die on Nov 1st before the cancer robs her of her faculties or causes more physical pain than she is already in. She is choosing death to keep her family, her husband and her friends from the trauma of caring for and experiencing her in the advanced stages of a horrible disease. Her motives are pure, and self-less. She is heralded as brave and commendable for making this difficult decision. She has chosen to go gently into that goodnight; pulling up the covers and dousing the light of the candle herself. I won’t say that she should hang on because God may miraculously heal her, though that is never out of the question. But I will say that a little grit is good for the soul. Her family will be forever changed by her loss. In one scenario they will tearfully say their goodbyes, she will lie back and drift into a peaceful slumber. They will stand vigil as she passes quietly into the next life. The other sees her mother again spoon feeding her child, her father holding her when she is in pain, her husband carrying her, dressing her, changing her. Getting their hands dirty and their hearts pummeled in the act of loving her so completely. The stuff that all humankind has never had the choice to opt out of before.
Shane’s family has made life beautiful through the pain of death. Brittany is attempting a beautiful death to spare the pain of life. The right to choose, to decide, to control- we are consumed nowadays with the desire to be the God of our own lives. Our ability to choose an Instagram filter that puts just the right hue on a sunset doesn’t carry over to the sunset of our lives.