Friday, July 31, 2009

Assisted Suicide

Good morning God,
I guess I could be forgiven for taking an interest in Debbie Purdy's petition for clarification on the law with regard to assisted suicide. I think I understand in part what she wants - I read her action, not as a request to be allowed to die, but to be assured that if she is led to make that decision it will not mean that she is left alone to face the dark places of the soul. At the moment of her death, she wants to have her husband's hand in hers, she wants the last words that she hears to be those of someone she loves. Who doesn't?

I find my thoughts drift back to the death of my friend 20 years ago from cancer. Joy's death was assisted suicide, but not of the sort that is currently in the news. Joy effectively committed suicide, willed herself to die and gave up the will to live, because she could no longer bear watching her children suffer as a result of her cancer. She was unwittingly, but nonetheless effectively assisted in this suicide by her closest friends and family who just wanted it to all be over... Death came quickly, because it was longed for, needed as a solution, a resolution. How desperately people need answers, closure, an end to the uncertainty of a fearful disease. Waiting for someone to either die or get well can sometimes be more than people can bear God. They want to get on with their lives, without death as a dinner companion. But above all, they want to love the person who is dying, without the pain of loss.
The valley of the shadow of death is for some, too long to traverse, too dark to walk slowly through, too fearsome to linger in even though they are there only to accompany someone they love. The fear that they might not be able to stay strong enough, be brave enough, dried eyed enough, haunts them and makes them want to race their loved one to the journey's end...

So although I think I know what Debbie wants, I don't believe that in the end, the law can give it to her.
Her husband may well be able to accompany her to dignitas, but I'm not so sure that this will give her what she wants. It may well be that long before she gets on the plane, she will have already been greatly assisted in her suicide bid, by those who are too afraid that they cant cope with the pain, the grief and the uncertainty of her living any longer.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for YOU are beside me..

Thank you God, for the assurance, that no matter what, in the months and years ahead, when those who love me are too afraid and can no longer bear to walk beside me, I can lovingly and gently give them permission to let go of me and still continue on my journey of life. That I do not need to either hurry or end my time in the valley because you are beside me, your rod and your staff, will comfort me - as they always have.

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