Dear Brittany: Why We Don’t Have To Be So Afraid of Dying & Suffering that We Choose Suicide
You may have read the poignant & powerful, CNN front-page story of cancer patient Brittany Maynard, 29, who has scheduled her death for Nov. 1? Come November 1, Maynard plans to take a pill given to her by her doctors as she wants to choose her own death and avoid hospice and the suffering her brain-tumor cancer may entail — Her story-gone-viral speaks of her plan to swallow the pill and choose death on her own terms in her own bedroom with her husband beside her and her favorite music playing in the background. Her story is raw — and she has all our love and prayers…. Before she dies by assisted suicide, Brittany states that she wants to use the rest of her time on earth to lobby for every American to have access to assisted suicide services.
After I read Brittany’s story yesterday… my friend Kara Tippetts dropped an email into my inbox — Kara was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36. She has 4 young children. She continues to battle that cancer two years later as it has crossed the blood/brain barrier and has metastasized into her entire body. I’ve been reading Kara’s journey since the beginning, profoundly moved by this woman’s courage to embrace all of her life as it comes to her… Kara’s exceptional book released this week, The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard — and Kara humbly speaks important words into this current news story and national conversation about assisted suicide with a tender weight & compassionate gravity that only someone, a mother, a wife, a daughter, bravely facing terminal cancer can — we earnestly love and pray for both women as they each share own their stories:
Dear Brittany Maynard,
This morning my best friend and I read your story.
My heart ached for you, and I’m simply grieved by your terminal brain tumor, for the less than 6 months the doctor’s gave you, you just past your 29th birthday.
With a heavy heart, I left my home and headed for my oncologist. I too am dying, Brittany.
My oncologist and I sat for a long time with hurting hearts for your story. We spoke in gentle tones discussing the hard path you are being asked to travel.
I came home and my friend and I sat on the bed of my five year old and prayed for you. We simply prayed you would hear my words from the most tender and beautifully broken place of my heart.
We prayed you would hear my words that are on paper coming from a place of tender love and knowing. Knowing what it is to know the horizon of your days that once felt limitless now feels to be dimming.
So hear these words from a heart full of love for you.
Brittany, your life matters, your story matters, and your suffering matters. Thank you for stepping out from the privacy of your story and sharing it openly.
We see you, we see your life, and there are countless lovers of your heart that are praying you would change your mind.
Brittany, I love you, and I’m sorry you are dying. I am sorry that we are both being asked to walk a road that feels simply impossible to walk.
I think the telling of your story is important.
It’s a discussion that needs to be brought out of the quiet corners and brought brightly into the light. You sharing your story has done that. It matters, and it is unbelievably important. Thank you.
Dear heart, we simply disagree. Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known.
In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with the such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths.
As I sat on the bed of my young daughter praying for you, I wondered over the impossibility of understanding that one day the story of my young daughter will be made beautiful in her living because she witnessed my dying.
That last kiss, that last warm touch, that last breath, matters — but it was never intended for us to decide when that last breath is breathed.
Knowing Jesus, knowing that He understands my hard goodbye, He walks with me in my dying. My heart longs for you to know Him in your dying. Because in His dying, He protected my living. My living beyond this place.
Brittany, when we trust Jesus to be the carrier, protecter, redeemer of our hearts, death is no longer dying. My heart longs for you to know this truth, this love, this forever living.
You have been told a lie. A horrible lie, that your dying will not be beautiful. That the suffering will be too great.
Today my oncologist and I spoke of your dying, of my dying, and of the beautiful partnership I have with my doctors in carrying me to my last moments with gentle care. For two thousand years doctors have lived beside the beautiful stream of protecting life and lovingly meeting patients in their dying with grace.
The doctor that prescribed you that pill you carry with you that will hasten your last breath has walked away from the hippocratic oath that says, “first, do no harm.” He or she has walked away from the oath that has protected life and the beautiful dying we are granted. The doctors agreeing to such medicine are walking away from the beautiful protection of the hippocratic oath.
There are also people who are speaking in ugly tones that make those of us who believe in Jesus seem unsafe, unkind, or unloving. Will you forgive us for the voices that feel like they are screaming at you from a heart that isn’t loving.
But in my whispering, pleading, loving voice dear heart- will you hear my heart ask you, beg you, plead with you — not to take that pill. Yes, your dying will be hard, but it will not be without beauty. Will you please trust me with that truth.
More importantly, will you hear from my heart that Jesus loves you. He loves you. He loves you. He died an awful death upon a cross so that you would know Him today that we would no longer live separate from Him and in our death. He died and His death happened, it is not simply a story.
He died and He overcame death three days later, and in that overcoming of death He overcame the death you and I are facing in our cancer. He longs to know you, to shepherd you in your dying, and to give you life and give you life abundant- eternal life.
For everyone living knowing death is eminent- that we all will one day face this it – the question that is most important. Who is this Jesus, and what does He have to do with my dying? Please do not take that pill before you ask yourself that question.
It’s a question we all must ask, as we are all dying.
I recently wrote a book, The Hardest Peace, and I also blog about my journey of my living and my journey towards my last breath. It is not simply a story of dying of cancer, but of living this breath. It’s a book for each of us that has breath still to breath, to embrace our living, and to look upon our dying with grace. Living in BIG LOVE and meeting my end in love. Stunning, important, love.
But more than my book, I would jump on a plane tomorrow to meet you and share the beautiful brokenness of my story and meet you in yours if you would ever consider having me.
I pray my words reach you.
I pray they reach the multitudes that are looking at your story and believing the lie that suffering is a mistake, that dying isn’t to be braved, that choosing our death is the courageous story.
No – hastening death was never what God intended.But in our dying, He does meet us with His beautiful grace.
My heart hurts that they have decided to swim from the shores of grace that it protected in our living and dying.
I get to partner with my doctor in my dying, and it’s going to be a beautiful and painful journey for us all.
But, hear me — it is not a mistake —
beauty will meet us in that last breath.
Kara Tippetts knows the ordinary days of mothering four kids, the joy of watching her children grow … and the devastating reality of stage-four cancer.
In The Hardest Peace, Kara doesn’t offer answers for when living is hard, but she asks us to join her in moving away from fear and control and toward peace and grace.
Most of all, she draws us back to the God who is with us, in the mundane and the suffering, and who shapes even our pain into exceptional, unforgettable beauty. I cried and laughed and paused and was awed through The Hardest Peace, truly an unforgettable read.
No matter what hard, impossible thing you are facing, what thing you don’t thing you can face– you can have the The Hardest Peace.