I lost my father in September 2014, shortly before Brittany Maynard’s story broke. He was only 61 and like Brittany [Maynard], he suffered from a cancer that required brain radiation. He took the chance with treatment, and then we watched as every one of Brittany’s fears materialized in my father. The radiation ultimately caused brain necrosis; the necrosis slowly but effectively ate his brain one section at a time. Although the treatment bought him more time, my father lost his quality of life. By then, he had been in chronic pain and constant angst for four years.
My family and I were forced to helplessly watch the slow, brutal process of losing him a piece at a time. We sat beside him through numerous painful surgeries and recoveries. We stood by him as his ability to perform simple life tasks began to fail—drive a car, hold a fork, move his feet. We watched as he lost ability to comprehend and process information. We cried when he lost ability to communicate and recognize things familiar. We held his hand as he agonized from morphine-resistant pain, and fought back tears when he told us he was ready to go. In the end, we sat beside him in hospice, waiting, praying for God to bring him peace. The process was torture on my sweet daddy; the experience was heartbreaking for us.
Meanwhile, Brittany died in her own bed, surrounded by family and listening to her favorite music. She still had her mind and her dignity.
I can’t say which way to exit this world is best; I can’t say if that final act will have any bearing on the eternal soul. I can only wonder, if given the chance again, would my dad have chosen a different path?