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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Your Dying Spouse 155 - Assisted Suicide Revisited

When one's terminally ill, the question of 'assisted suicide' always comes up, and a couple of years ago it received quite a lot of attention when a young woman with brain cancer, Brittany Maynard, became something of its poster girl.

She did kill herself, after going for a last walk with her husband and dogs.

At the time I wrote a post on another blog in which I disagreed violently with her course of action; and I wrote a post earlier in this series looking at the same subject. . But now, with a little thought,and a lot of experience, I feel compelled to revisit the issue.

I still think it's the wrong thing to do, but I understand it better. Lately, I've had a run of really bad days and new, ominous symptoms (which I won't describe, so count yourselves lucky), and lying semiconscious on the kitchen floor - more than once a day, let alone more than once a week, I've wondered...is this how I'm going to die?

The answer is, probably, yes.

And the pain's gone to new heights, or a new low. My walk has become amusingly crablike...kind of bent-over and scuttling sideways.

No, scutting implies speed. I'm limping, really, because putting weight on my right leg sends pain straight through the pancreas, and that can drop me.

So the operative question is, how much more can I take? How much worse can this get?

The answer is, obviously, a lot.

Faced with this, I can understand why the bleakness of the prospect can make a person yearn for it to be over. The large agonies and the small humiliations...just over.


First, well, I'm a Christian, and believe that suicide is a sin. As in cardinal sin. Yes, I believe there are special circumstances that excuse it...the people who jumped from the World Trade Center Towers rather than burn to death were probably not castigated by the Almighty.

But I am not in that position. I have pain that is extreme, but the fact that I am writing this means I can still function, at least to a degree...and offing myself would simply be an emotional response...I don't wanna do this any more!

Second, it seems to be a terribly cruel burden and memory to place on one's loved ones...to see someone drink the hemlock, knowing that there is nothing now that will arrest the death. To keep talking while the responses become slower, trying to get in the last important words...I could not do that to anyone.

Third, it rather cancels God's ability to send a miracle. That miracle may not be a healing; it may merely be a clarity of understanding and purpose. But we are God's creatures, and in the end I don't think that we can take the play out of His hands (barring the World Trade Center example above, or similar things).

But having lived the last few months, and especially this last horrible day, I really can't bring myself to condemn anyone who takes this way out. I'm not in his or her shoes, and I have no insight into his or her relationship with the Almighty. There are things that can't be endured, and those are different for everyone.

All I can say now is, I hope that I can extend this compassion consistently, if I ever face dealing with someone who's backed into this fell corner, this fatal choice.

But in the end, I'll stand by the closing of my earlier post on this blog, written a long time ago...

"The terminally ill still have a lot to give, and they should not be thrown away...by society, or by themselves.

That line really says it all...I'm rather proud of it, so I'll stop here."

If you can, please do leave a comment. I am trying to answer all, and I am failing, but please know this - I read and treasure each one.

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  1. Still too strong for a walker or a scooter...*shaking my head and yet admiring your grit and stamina*
    I love the closing line.
    And agree that you still have MUCH to offer!

    1. And too stubborn for aids...I'll crawl first.

      When I go...IF I go...I'll leave a trail of wreckage all the way to Heaven's Gates. I don't know how to spell surander, much less DO it.

  2. Dear Andrew,
    You have shared some very powerful thoughts. I cannot condemn the choices of others in this situation because I have never faced them. I can only pray and hope and trust our God that if I ever do face this, I would do so in a way that honors Him.
    You have much to give and may you continue to do so knowing there are others who need to read your words.
    May He continue to fill you with strength and courage in these most difficult days.
    Praying for you this morning. Blessings!

    1. Joanne, thank you so much! Looking into what seems an abyss of pain, I can sure see where despair can make a quick exit seem reasonable...and could never condemn anyone for taking it. We all process experience differently, and pain can never be compared.

      But I still have a job to do, and I will do it to the end. Seems the best way to honour Him what made me, eh?

      We thank you so much for the prayers!

  3. I love that you're continuing to think, continuing to grow, despite the pain you're in. That's strength. That's grace. I have no idea what I'd do in that situation either except to pray for God's grace and mercy.

    1. Lisa, having followed your writing for quite awhile now...a lot of the strength others see comes from the teaching you've provided. You're holding up a light of grace and peace that allows me (perhaps paradoxically?) to fight ever-harder. Thank you for that.

      In this situation, you'd do awesome. Hope you never have to face it, but you'd set an inspiration to the world. I have no doubt.

  4. "It cancels God's ability to send a miracle."
    Yes, and so much of my own unbelief may be doing the same thing on a different scale. We all need the mercy and grace of God.

    1. Michele, you said that beautifully! Thank you.

  5. Oh, Andrew...you DO still have a lot to give...though I think I can understand any feelings of wanting it to all be OVER - or do I understand? Actually, having never been in that sort of situation, I really don't. Yet, perhaps I do. Hmmm. And what you have said does make so much sense all the way 'round, from a Christian perspective, I do understand/agree/see where you are going with this. And, here I ramble!!

    Thank you for sharing, once again! Prayers always!

    1. Barbara, not rambling...wisdom. You've illuminated the dichotomy I've come to feel, of understanding...and at the same time being baffled. Well done!

      Thank you so much for the prayers!

  6. I agree that you and other terminally ill people still have a lot to give.

    I also believe that Jesus went to the cross for all of our sins past, present and future and that includes suicide. The only unforgivable sin is rejecting Jesus.

    Thank you for your wonderful words. Continuing to pray for you and Barbara.

    1. Michele, thank you...and you're right. There is only one unforgivable sin. (The one Job was urged to do, actually...and which he refused...good on him!).

      Thank you so much for being here, and for your prayers! Things have gotten drastically worse, and they're needed.

  7. You are a refreshing voice that actively demonstrates that one's life still has meaning even while in the throes of great pain and suffering. Your post is worth reading, I've often wondered your thoughts on this very subject. I'm going to read your past blogs about assisted suicide that you linked up. You and Job have a lot in common. He never cursed God either. When my grandad was suffering with cancer, he told my grandmother that an angel visited him one night, came into his room and stood at the foot of his bed for quite some time. It was a glorious experience for him. Something healed inside of him in the spiritual realm during his last few months. We were praying for a physical miracle, but the miracle came as a spiritual one. I realized that much later, I was a 7th grade kid when he passed on. I hope your day has a few bright spots in it, and that a sense of divine Presence will assist and touch you. Blessings, Andrew. Still praying.

    1. Norma, wow, thank you! And thank you for the story of your grandfather. I, too, am attended by angels - they are really big, black, wearing jeans and dreads...and I'm not kidding. They have lovely voices, Jamaican, but not the Kingston intonation, more rural.

      And yes, sometimes healing can be spiritual. Mine is; I've come to realize that what I am experiencing is a privilege rather than a trial. I see things with a different clarity, and it's a perspective I value. I would not wish it away.

      Thank you so much for the prayers, my friend!

  8. i understand (as in i understand the words, not the experience) your thinking Andrew. i admit, i read you posts sporadically, not always. when i hear of your suffering, i wonder if you have considered hospice. if this is an old, boring question you have already dealt with, you don't have answer again. i do know they can come to your home and often help with pain treatment and comfort in ways you may not have considered. it seems sad that you may not have taken advantage of their help. if this is something you have considered and rejected for you own reasons, just ignore this comment. but as both a nurse of patients who were dying and a family member, i have found them to be especially kind, caring and down to earth in their care.

    i have read both kara tippetts, who passed away of cancer a little over a year ago on this topic on her blog Mundane Faithfulness. Also Joni Earickson Tada has written on this topic as well. (She has been paralyzed for over 40 years in a wheelchair!)

    they have been encouraging as they speak of the strong desire to be with Jesus, yet accept the days He has designed for them. If we humans were the judges...and i'm glad we aren't, it would be easy to decide to let some people off.

    but the all-wise, everlasting, just, all loving GOD is. he has all those traits in perfect balance. He is caring for you in ways we can't imagine. He knows the number of your days. We pray for peace and rest for the days you have left here on earth. i'm sorry i'm not closer to be able to give you physical comfort from a nursing perspective...and to pray with you and give more spiritual comfort as well.

    blessings andrew.

    1. Martha, thank you for this...hospice isn't an option for us for financial reasons. My wife makes too much for me to qualify for medicaid, but insurance is too dear (even with high deductibles), and leaving her a mountain of debt is not the legacy I had in mind. I've just got to leg this out.

      Not a bad thing; documenting the 'trip' seems to have a bit of value, and that is more important than keeping myself more comfortable. Agony's not fun (and as I write this that is exactly the word I would use), but it IS still possible to do a useful job of work in its midst, and only through the unfiltered experience can I do that with legitimacy.

      Or that may just be self-justification...that I really need to show that I'm harder than the pain!

      I read Kara's blog as well, and also Joni's words. They are both so inspiring! My faith doesn't hold a candle to theirs. I wish it did.

      I truly appreciate your prayers and good wishes, Martha. Things have gotten ever-harder of late, and I am sustained by the fact that the Body of Christ is in my corner!

  9. I think it's hard to say what is right or wrong in situations where we have not walked. But you are walking in that very place, so if anyone can speak into this, you certainly can, Andrew. So I'm glad that you reiterate your stance as well as extend grace to those who might feel hopeless to stay in this life another day. Thanks for your wise insight.

  10. Andrew, Andrew, Andrew. I'm not sure I could endure what you are going through and I'm not sure I could drink the Kool-Aid either but the fact that you are still writing and moving, if only barely, attests to God having a plan. I don't agree with the cardinal sin part - but we won't debate theology here!!! Love you brother...can't imagine a linkup with Selma. (I do hope I got her name right? I hate insulting women.) xoxoxoxo

    1. without Selma. But you knew what I meant. ;)