Apple Pie and The Right to Die

For those of you who got an email alert late last night (as well as each time I post something new to my website), you might be wondering what happened to that post I’d written and titled ‘An Open Letter To Governor Jerry Brown’.

This will explain.

After learning on the evening news yesterday that the legislation for the ‘End of Life Option Act’ had finally arrived on the Governor’s desk for his approval or his veto, real HOPE got the best of me. I immediately sat at my computer and in a flurry of emotion I wrote the now deleted letter imploring him to SIGN IT INTO LAW.

Most Americans would be more familiar with this legislation as the ‘Death with Dignity Act’, which Brittany Maynard brought to the attention of our national media last year. At just 29 years old, Brittany had terminal brain cancer. She had to move from her home in California to our northern neighboring state of Oregon in order to end her life with dignity. Oregon voters passed this law back in 1994.

I believe with all my heart that every individual who is terminally ill should have the right to choose for themselves their own pathway toward their impending death. These words from our Declaration of Independence for these United States of America should ensure that right: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Death and dying are a part of life. Yet I know that there are many who remain steadfast in their opposition to this legislation. Remember, without life, there would be no death. So to those opposed, I ask you where is the humanity, the compassion, and the common decency in watching someone you love suffer a prolonged and painful death? Would you deny one of your terminally ill family members a peaceful death if they begged for a semblance of dignity? Would you instead prefer the anguish of watching them suffer in their final months or days, knowing that you’ve denied their own personal wishes? Are you aware that someone else’s impending death is not about YOU?

Further to those opposed to this legislation I’d say: Support it anyhow, and when your own time comes, feel free to suffer as much as you’d like. No one is stopping you from experiencing your own terminal illness with whatever pain and agony will come to you, all for your own loved ones to witness. Completely YOUR choice, and I would be the first to support whatever YOU choose to do in your own impending death. Because that choice should never be anyone’s but your own.

As soon as I’d posted my open letter to Governor Brown onto my website and Facebook page, I climbed into bed, but became amped up even more …and quickly realized I was actually uncomfortable with my decision to be so public about this particular issue.

So I reached in the dark for my iPhone and I decided to read one more time my words to Governor Brown. And in doing so, I became aware that some of you might interpret them to think my time on this earth is now within my sights. It’s not. It may be out there on the horizon somewhere, but I don’t see it, not yet. I’ve had to stop worrying about what the statistics on my own diagnosis suggest. And although I live in the ‘here and now’ as was recommended by my oncologist, I also have no illusions about my cancer; I’m fully aware of the magnitude of this very personal challenge.

And the reality? It matters not one iota what I think Governor Brown should do, because the legislation is already sitting on Governor Brown’s desk, passed finally by both the Assembly and the Senate after hours of in-depth discussion and testimony from many on all sides, including Brittany’s husband and Brittany’s mother, both of whom were at her side when she passed.

With the ease of iPhone app technology, I deleted the open letter just fifteen minutes after I’d posted it (to both my blog site and my personal Facebook page). Then I checked my blog stats… twelve visitors in those fifteen minutes, and one Facebook share…all honed in on that Open Letter to Governor Brown.

I felt better once it was deleted but remained awake all night, too edgy to sleep. I wondered if Jerry Brown was sleeping soundly, if he’d already made up his mind about this legislation, one way or the other.

As I sipped my coffee early this morning, it really began to bother me that I led you, my loyal followers, to a dead end post. So, here’s why I’m back on my laptop posting once again, a bit embarrassed if truth be told to have posted something that I truly did not feel was the correct expression of my feelings.

I’ve just carved up 30 apples I picked from our own backyard apple trees. About half of them, all perfect on the outside, were actually already rotten on the inside. And that seemed fitting as an analogy to sum up my feelings a bit more concisely:

Things aren’t always what they seem. NO ONE knows the pain and suffering of someone else battling a terminal illness. On the surface, they may appear to be managing well. But until you peel back those outer layers revealing quite the opposite to be true, you likely spend little or no time imagining your own death.

So today I am making an apple pie from those apples that were healthy inside AND out. And I will pray for Governor Brown to honor our Declaration of Independence by signing the End of Life Option Act into law. It would bring me personal peace of mind, and I suspect it might do the same for you.

If he vetoes it instead, when my finish line is within clear view don’t be surprised to receive a ‘change of address’ notice from me. I’ll be in beautiful Montana, or Oregon, or Vermont, or any other state where I can live out my final days in the manner of my choosing.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart for hearing me out.

My apple pie looks about as distressed as I feel waiting for Jerry Brown's decision. Hope the distress doesn't doom the palatability!

My apple pie looks about as distressed as I feel waiting for Jerry Brown’s decision!

When Time Slips Away

This is been quite the national news week. Ebola has dominated the headlines, and as the media ramps up the hysteria, the stories get more and more strange.

The strangest one for me is about Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the physician who took an NBC film crew to Liberia to cover the Ebola story. She’s the network’s chief medical correspondent. When her cameraman tested positive for Ebola, she and the rest of her crew were told to stay quarantined. Apparently, time just slipped away for Nancy…and she had a momentary lapse of judgement. So, what does she do? She decides to make a soup run. That’s right. She drives herself to a local restaurant in order to pick up some soup for herself. I’m just guessing here, but it must be one hell of a restaurant, and I’d love to know what kind of soup that was…and if they’d share the recipe.  Assuming they’re still open for business, that is.

Next was the coroner’s report on the death of Joan Rivers. She’d gone in for a routine outpatient procedure, an endoscopy on her throat to learn what might be causing her raspy voice. It seems time just slipped away from her doctor that day…he took selfies with Joan while she was knocked out under anesthesia, and just before she went into cardiac arrest. The coroner’s office has ruled her death ‘the result of a predictable complication’. I’m just guessing here, but I’d say there’ll be a massive lawsuit coming soon, which will now put the spotlight on all surgeons as each one of us who’ve been under anesthesia will now wonder what the hell goes on in our presence which just happens to be simultaneously in our absence. A very horrifying thought.

And then there’s the cover of People Magazine this week. Brittany Maynard is just twenty-nine years old and has terminal brain cancer. A newlywed when she was diagnosed just months ago, she and her groom have moved from California (along with her parents) to the state of Oregon which passed the Death With Dignity Act in 1997. She has chosen to leave this earth on her own terms, and in Oregon she has the legal right to do so. With prescribed drugs, she will be able to pass peacefully at the time of her choosing, rather than endure the horrific death that brain cancer would otherwise force upon her. As she watches her time slip away, she has become focused on the love of her friends and family, strength and inner peace. Every state in the union needs to get this law passed. If you disagree, push for it anyhow. You can choose your own death of suffering and pain…that’s your right as well.

BUT…the story that has really stayed with me this week is the one about Glenn Campbell. You know, the guy who hit big time with songs like Rhinestone Cowboy, Wichita Lineman, Gentle On My Mind, By The Time I Get to Phoenix, and Galveston…there’s a whole host of ‘em. If you have no idea who I’m talking about, well, you’re just a few decades too young (but if you head over to iTunes, you can take a listen). He’s won nine Grammy awards, the most recent in 2012 when he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

So, what’s news with him? He’s in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, yet has just released his final song video. It’s a ballad that was written for his wife. As Glenn Campbell’s time quickly slips away, he is cognizant enough to leave one last message.   It’s both a heartbreaking and tender act of lasting love, of self-awareness, of inner strength and of incredible dignity.  It’s titled ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You’. For Glenn, that’s the blessing and the ‘only thing that selfishly remains’…because Alzheimer’s is a disease of stolen memories.  He can’t miss what he can’t remember…that’s the silver lining that Glenn has found.

Let’s hope the news next week is less memorable.