The Day I Died

Death. It’s not something we’re all that comfortable talking about, is it. Still one of those taboo subjects. Perhaps even more so than sex, politics and religion. But as it’s going to happen to all of us one day, I guess it’s something we need to talk about.

And I hesitated before writing this blog today. Because the subject is a sensitive one. But when I saw that Brittany Maynard had made the incredible decision to end her life her way this last week, it raised some mixed feelings. Just 29 years old. Diagnosed with a brain tumour that she was told would only get worse. Instead of allowing the tumour to determine her fate, she made the decision to die with dignity at a time of her choosing. That’s not for everyone. I know of others living with the same diagnosis who wouldn’t even consider it, the preciousness of this life keeping them here no matter what.

But some would say we all choose how we die in one way or another.

Was it a brave decision? It certainly takes guts. But I think it’s brave either way – to decide to end it while you still can, or continue living with the uncertainty. And while some scream it was suicide, I wonder who are we to judge? We need to walk a mile, don’t we, and only then can we know what we might have done in her shoes.

Would I do it? I honestly don’t know. I have my husband and my children I love with all my heart. And so much meaning in my life that I would probably want every last day no matter what. Every last minute to enjoy them, to enjoy this life. And my beliefs would probably keep me here. As well as my hope that some miracle would come. And they can.

But what I do know is that my thoughts on death this last week have changed. A few months ago when I read of Brittany’s campaign to make dying with dignity a right for every human being I was saddened by her story. So young, so beautiful. But this week I feel a little lighter around the whole idea of death. My eyes have been opened to the possibility of it being a door, a new beginning and not an end. And I find myself wondering if there really is a light on the otherside for all of us no matter what our religion persuasion. And that Brittany is now there.

‘The Day I Died’ raised quite a storm when it was aired almost a decade ago by the BBC. So much so, it’s no longer available. But there are ways to find these things. And I sat entranced watching this beautiful documentary. And it certainly allayed some of my fear around dying. Beautiful stories of people clinically dead who’d passed over to the other side for a time, not wanting to come back, but choosing to do so because it wasn’t their time. The group of cardiologists and anaesthetists who are researching these near death experiences have my respect for going there. Doctors all around the world taking the time to listen to their patients and hear of their experiences once their hearts and brains have stopped. Their experience of love and peace and joy. I remember my own grandfather speaking of such an experience after his heart attack.

I want my children to see this documentary, to allay their fears. Because life and death are an inescapable part of being human, aren’t they. How good would it be I we could all celebrate our lives and our passing, rather than live in fear of it…

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