My younger sister Kathy would have turned 63 today, but she passed away last night. I believe she is the first person in Colorado to use the new Death with Dignity law and take “the pill.”
Kathy had been suffering with severe COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) for more than a year. On most days she was in constant pain and said she felt like she was slowly drowning. Hospice care was a big help, but she knew she would never get better and wanted to meet death on her own terms.
Kathy talked everything over with her husband and children and doctors, as well as me and her other siblings. We had the opportunity to say our good byes and to prepare as best as we could for the inevitable. It wasn’t an easy decision but it was hers to make, and I support that.
As we talked for the final time last night, I asked what she felt looking over the ledge. Was she afraid? No. Was she curious? Yes. I told her I loved her; I asked her to save me a place and said I looked forward to seeing her again.
Her passing is another example of what’s ahead for all of us. I lost my brother-in-law to cancer a few months ago. I have several friends with stage 3 or 4 cancer. I’m writing this from the chemo infusion center where I’m getting my 50-something dose of poison in the last eight years.
Like Kathy, I’m not afraid of death; I’m curious. I’m also in no hurry and want to make the most of each day, which means putting the most into—and getting the most out of—my relationships. I believe relationships outlive the body. As near-death survivor Dr. Eben Alexander put it:
My experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness, that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares about each one of us and about where the universe itself and all the beings within it are ultimately going.