Betts Cruz is a bookkeeper, photographer, and notary in Molokai, Hawai’i.
In 2009, my sister Nancy found herself facing death when her ALS sent her into rapid decline. By then she’d lived with the illness for years but did not know it was ALS the entire time.
She had lived and raised her family in Vermont and so it made sense to return there to live with sister Marnie as her primary caregiver. The cold weather was too hard on her, so she spent time in Brazil, then Colorado and finally Oregon to take advantage of the Death with Dignity law.
I, along with two other sisters, our brother, our 90-year old mother and Nancy’s two children supported Nancy’s decision and her right to die a peaceful death. We as a family banded together for her. We took turns caring for her and a few other relatives and friends pitched in as well. We talked, cried and laughed—it ended up being a hard but wonderful experience for all of us. Together we were able to make Nancy’s last four months on this earth as happy as possible. We were lucky in being able to make end of life comfortable for her. Most people don’t have that. We are so grateful for all the agencies that helped us through the process.
The day Nancy chose was a beautiful spring day in Oregon. She told me she’d come to me as a dragonfly if she could—and she does. I think about her every day, and I miss her all the time. And I know that death is not a horrible thing to be afraid of but a part of life that we ought to embrace and cherish.
Nancy’s story helped pass the law in Vermont with a lot of hard work from my sister Marnie. “It’s about time,” we all thought when the law went into effect. Her life and her death made a difference. We know she’s dancing in heaven, happy we are trying to get similar laws passed in every state for her sake and future generations’ sakes. We are determined to make her story our story, a part of history.