It doesn't feel like a coincidence that Brittany Maynard’s choice to commit suicide to avoid a lingering death from terminal cancer came to light during the month of October. Since 1972, October is designated as Respect Life Month, dedicated to increasing a greater awareness of the human dignity of all life.
Brittany’s choice to publicly share her story in support of assisted suicide and euthanasia really opened a dialogue about death across the country. There is little doubt that God is working through Brittany’s case to reach out to all people, forcing them to examine their consciences in search of what they believe is right. As a result, October 2014 yielded some of the most beautiful testimonials from others currently suffering from various stages of terminal illness. They reached out to her, counseled her, loved her, prayed for her, and did so in a public manner so we can all be witnesses. While ultimately they were unable to change Brittany’s heart, we do not know how many others are currently struggling with their own illness, their own suffering, and heard these witnesses speak of faith, hope, and love in facing their own redemptive suffering.
Here are two stories that you may not have seen. This is their courageous decision. This is their plan for death with dignity.
- Kara Tippets, a young mother of four, whose breast cancer metastasized, wrote “Dear Brittany: Why We Don’t Have to Be So Afraid of Dying & Suffering that We Choose Suicide”
- Phillip Johnson, 30 years old and living a similar diagnosis, wrote her “Dear Brittany:Our Lives Are Worth Living, Even With Brain Cancer.” You can hear his entire story on Seize theDay with Gus Lloyd. (Make sure you have enough time to listen, because once you start you won’t want to turn it off. I sat for 20 minutes in the office parking garage unable to turn off the radio.)
Another post offers another perspective, written not by the person suffering, but by the man who cared for his family as they sought out death with dignity at the end of their fight. Jason Welle shared his experience on Love and Dignity and Dying.
God works in mysterious and unseeing ways. Sometimes we don't realize how much we are not alone as people struggling to live with faith, to know what we believe, and beyond that… to be able to truly live what we believe. Whether you think Brittany’s suicide to avoid suffering was right or wrong, God alone is able to use her life and death to work in your heart. He will lead us to discern how we minister to people when they suffer and how we show Christ’s love and respect while offering them a death with dignity.