By Chris Haring

As Lynda Bluestein, a CT right-to-die advocate, approaches her final months, she has found a unique way to help others grieving the deaths of loved ones.

In a world often silent about the realities of death and grief, Lynda Bluestein, a 76-year-old Bridgeport, CT resident diagnosed with terminal cancer, stands as a testament to embracing the inevitable.

As detailed by Kaitlin Lyle in The Ridgefield Press, Bluestein faced three distinct diagnoses in just five years: breast cancer in 2018, melanoma in the following year, and late-stage fallopian tube cancer in 2021. Now, with a prognosis of six months or less to live, her decision is clear—she’s determined to experience her final days on her terms.

A landmark lawsuit helped cement Lynda’s legacy

As a longtime right-to-die advocate, Bluestein is no stranger to the complexities of end-of-life choices. Her name was etched in history in March when she settled a landmark case, granting her access to physician-assisted death via Vermont’s Act 39. Two months later, Gov. Phil Scott signed H.190, which scrapped the residency requirement for all out-of-state residents.

(Bluestein’s home state of Connecticut doesn’t offer this option, as aid-in-dying bills have failed to advance through its legislature approximately a dozen times over the past three decades.)

However, Bluestein is not yet in the active phase of dying. Thus, instead of solely focusing on her predicament, she’s dedicated her remaining time to a profound project of pure altruism – supporting others dealing with the death of loved ones. 

“Wind phones” recognize that grief is a natural part of life

Recognizing that grief often remains a private struggle, Bluestein and her friends and family have undertaken an extraordinary initiative – creating “wind phones.” These devices, stripped of earthly connections, serve as one-way channels for people to communicate with their departed loved ones, and she believes they offer a positive platform for folks to share their mourning.

Lynda’s dedication to another lasting contribution is a testament to her unwavering spirit and desire to leave the world a better place. Moreover, her broader story underscores the importance of having open discussions about end-of-life options and offering people the choice to embrace death with dignity.

Having lived a life that serves as a testament to her unwavering commitment to autonomy, choice, and self-determination, Bluestein is following through on her clear vision of how she wants to exit this world: on her terms, surrounded by loved ones and with an inimitable legacy.

Read the full article below:

As a CT woman prepares to die on her own terms, her ‘final gift’ is a phone connected only to the wind

Kaitlin LyleStaff Writer
published: Oct. 12, 2023

Rather than “put death in the whisper category,” a 76-year-old Bridgeport woman who has been diagnosed with a terminal cancer says her “final gift” before dying will be to help families embrace grief as “part of the fabric of life.”

“Grief, like death, is one of the things we don’t talk about,” Lynda Bluestein said. “The bigger the hole in your heart, the more love was there at one time.”

She has had three different cancer diagnoses in the past five years, starting with breast cancer in 2018, melanoma the following year and then with late-stage fallopian tube cancer in 2021.

With a life expectancy of six months or less, Bluestein is receiving home-based hospice care through VITAS Healthcare and preparing to face death on her own terms.

With a life expectancy of six months or less, Bluestein is receiving home-based hospice care through VITAS Healthcare and preparing to face death on her own terms.

‘A chance to say goodbye’

Bluestein said she learned about wind phones through a film crew that was doing a documentary on her life. They told her they were headed to East Nashville, Tenn., where a wind phone was to be installed, and the idea “struck me to the fiber of my being,” she said. 

“I said, ‘I want to do that, to have a wind phone for anybody who hasn’t had the chance to say goodbye,’” Bluestein said.

She wrote to her friends about her idea for her “final chapter,” Bluestein said, and started to receive desk phones, Princess telephones, wall phones and other rotary phones in the mail. 

Her first wind phone was installed at the Ridgebury Congregational Church in Ridgefield. The town has “a special place in my heart,” Bluestein said, as the first place she and her husband, Paul Bluestein, now 76, had “a fancy dinner” after moving from California to Connecticut in 1992. 

Bluestein said a friend connected her to the church’s pastor, the Rev. Debbie Rundlett, about installing a wind phone there. 

Rundlett suggested installing the phone box in a copse of trees near the church, Bluestein said. She and her son Jacob Shannon brought the phone and a phone stand Shannon built to the church property. He also built a path leading from the church to the wind phone, she said.

A dedication ceremony was held Sept. 24, with attendees coming from as far as New Hampshire, Kentucky and California.

Bluestein recently received approval from the Westport Library to donate two wind phones there: one for patrons to check out of the library and one specifically for children.

As far as other future sites, Bluestein said she’d love to see a wind phone installed in Sandy Hook and Newtown. Eventually, she said she’d love to see her project go nationwide.

‘Make the world a better place’

Bluestein said she has known for decades that her death would be her decision.

She said her mother also had three different cancer diagnoses but chose to keep her illness a secret from her family. Bluestein was unaware of her mother’s illness until her brother called to say their mother was dying of ovarian cancer. 

“By the time I got to the hospital, my mother had moments left to live,” Bluestein said. “I said, ‘This can’t be my mother. … This is not what she wanted.””

Bluestein’s mother died in her daughter’s arms in 1994.

“I said at that moment, ‘This is not the way I’m going to die,’” Bluestein said. “To not have time to say goodbye, to have closure with my mom, seemed horribly, horribly wrong. It took me years to get over the shock of how my mother died without her family with her.”

Bluestein said her experiences with cancer took a toll on her family, which is why she wants her “final exit to not be such a heavy burden.” She said she and her husband are advocates for bodily autonomy as a civil right, which includes medical aid in dying and women’s reproductive rights. 

“I don’t think the state has a valid right to interfere,” Paul Bluestein said. “I think that the right to determine how you spend your last days on this earth is a right you deserve to have.”

Through his involvement Compassion for Choices, a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Ore., aimed at improving patient autonomy and individual choice at the end of life, the couple learned the only way they could legally access medical aid in dying was if they moved to a state where it’s authorized: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine and New Mexico. Only Oregon permits nonresidents to get medical aid in dying, according to Compassion for Choices.

Bills to allow aid in dying have been brought before Connecticut’s legislature over a dozen times in the last 30 years but have failed to gain approval, Paul Bluestein said. More than 100 people provided testimony in support of and against a new aid in dying bill that was proposed earlier this year.

“It seems hypocritical, particularly in a state where a women’s right to choose how she’s going to deal with pregnancy is supported and yet the bodily autonomy to choose to end your life is opposed,” Paul Bluestein said. “In spite of the fact most of Connecticut’s residents want the bill passed, it hasn’t in a quarter of a century. This is a case in which the people’s interests are not being represented, so it’s left us very little choice as a personal matter to seek solution — in this case, Vermont.”

With legal counsel from Compassion and Choices, Lynda Bluestein filed a federal lawsuit last August against Vermont that argued the residential restriction was unconstitutional. She filed the lawsuit along with Dr. Diana Barnard, a hospice and palliative care physician and associate professor of family medicine at the University of Vermont who was prevented from helping out-of-state patients interested in medical aid in dying.

A settlement was reached March 14, granting Bluestein access to medical aid in dying in Vermont regardless of her residency status. As part of the settlement, the Vermont Department of Health agreed to publicly support legislation to remove the residency requirement permanently and Barnard retained the right to refile the case if the change doesn’t pass the legislature.

Bluestein entered early hospice care July 17, in which she traveled to Vermont in August to make her first face-to-face request for medical aid in dying. She placed her second request a few weeks later as required, and will have to submit paperwork and meet with a doctor to see if she meets the criteria of Act 39.

In their 42-year marriage, Paul Bluestein said his wife has always been more concerned with helping others than helping herself.

“She’s really tried for four decades to reach out to make the world a better place,” he said. “And this is a continuation of that.”