By all accounts Brittany Maynard’s is a life well lived.
Sure, we’re not God, so we have no idea where she stands eternally. We don’t know if she’s sought the forgiveness for her sins that is found only in Jesus Christ, but we can pray that she has before it’s too late.
However, from what we can humanly see, Maynard has lived a life of courage and adventure—even climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Sadly, though, it now seems she may not live to see her 30th birthday. In April, the 29-year old Maynard was diagnosed with a stage four malignant brain tumor. She was given six months to live.
“I’ve discussed with many experts how I would die from it and it’s a terrible way to die,” Maynard told People Magazine. “Being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying.”
Seeking that dignified death, Maynard plans to end her own life on November 1st with prescribed medication. So much for that Hippocratic Oath. For thousands of years the taking of one’s own life has been commonly referred to as “suicide.” But nowadays even suicide is a post-modern construct, so Maynard maintains she’s not committing suicide by committing suicide.
“There is not a cell in my body that is suicidal or wants to die,” Maynard says. “I want to live. I wish there was a cure for my disease but there is not.”
I cannot imagine what Maynard and her family are facing and urge everyone reading this to pray for them during this difficult time. Her desire to avoid this suffering for her, and her husband and loved ones as well, is very human and understandable.
However, what she ultimately seeks cannot be found, because there is no such thing as a dignified death.
Death is indignity by its very nature. We were originally created to live forever, but we chose to go our own way, thus death entered into the world. Death is the result of the suffering we have caused this world, not some idle occurrence that is merely the natural way of things. This is why St. Paul writes that Christ, by rising from the grave, has “conquered the last enemy” and destroyed death. There is no death, indignity, or suffering to fear once we acknowledge the death and suffering Christ endured on our behalf to give us eternal life.
Remember when the story of a limited time to live meant going out with a bang, making your way through your bucket list, or giving inspiring speeches to those you’ll leave behind to make sure they make every moment count? Sadly, Maynard has instead decided to spend what she’s convinced are her final moments of life becoming a political cause célèbre for death.
While there is no such thing as a dignified death, there is such a thing as a meaningful death. How, why, where, or when someone dies can testify to the meaning (worth/dignity) of that person’s life. This is why we commemorate sacrificial love, because there is no greater love than a willingness to give one’s life for another. We can give no more than our own self.
By making the decision to end her own life on November 1st, Maynard is assuming she has nothing more to offer this world or her loved ones beyond that point. That is to say in essence she is playing God and making decisions as if she alone knows the future.
How does she know a loved one wasn’t going to need a comforting word from her on November 2nd? How does she know her husband might not need her support on November 3rd? How does she know she wasn’t intended to be the one that was going to play a key part in saving someone’s life on November 4th? How does she know a miraculous cure wouldn’t be discovered on November 5th? Perhaps Christ returns on November 6th and fulfills his promise to wipe away every tear from our eyes.
And why choose November 1st when she was given six months to live back in April? By making it to November at all Maynard has already defied her original diagnosis if you do the math.
I write this not to criticize Maynard, but to provoke her to move beyond her fear of suffering, and see the world as it really is and her life as it was really intended to be. We are supposed to share one another’s burdens, not see ourselves as a burden. We are to live every day as if it may be our last, not seek after and even schedule our last day.
People Magazine described Maynard as “fearless,” but ironically it seems as if her decision to commit suicide is based solely out of fear. The fear of physical torment. The fear of how it will negatively impact her loved ones. The fear of becoming undignified as a result of a terrible affliction.
These are all fears most of us cannot possibly understand, but I know someone who does. His name is Jesus Christ. He was brutally beaten beyond recognition for wrongs he didn’t commit. He carried a cross he couldn’t bear. He was nailed to a tree and died a death he didn’t deserve.
He knows what you’re going through, Brittany, and has already suffered what you fear happening to you—but even worse. For his willingness to lay down his life for you (us), he has been given all power under heaven and earth. That means he has you alive right now for a reason. He has a purpose for you to inspire and love others, and he wants them to inspire and love on you as well.
And he wants you to know that perfect love casts out all fear.