The dying can teach us


To the Editor:
As I remember my father doing, I find myself at 72 occasionally pondering the mysteries of life, death and hoped-for continuance, “weighing” my evolving understanding of them. I also sometimes speculate as to whether I will have a relatively “easy” death or a more troubled, pain-wracked decline (and wonder how well I would deal with that).
On April 16, you published a column by Father Ron Rolheiser in which he addressed the issue of physician-assisted suicide in his usual wise, thoughtful way. At one point, he commented on Britanny Maynard’s decision to take advantage of Oregon’s law permitting, under controlled circumstances, physician-assisted termination of an individual’s life. (She had moved to Oregon in 2013 for this purpose.) I remember following this story closely at the time.
I understand — and respect — Fr. Rolheiser’s expression of the church’s stance on both euthanasia and suicide. I also appreciate — and, frankly, tremble before — the horrible suffering that some encounter in dying. Ms. Maynard had given much thought to her illness and the nature of her approaching death and was quite articulate in sharing these with others.
While the rest of us clearly have the duty to support, counsel and protect the dying, I also believe that, at the end, it is still their wish and decision that must take precedence. We can only hope that a person possessing a well-formed conscience, and who also enjoys and participates in a loving relationship with the Creator, will make the right call, the holy choice, at such a time, even if that be something others may not fully understand or accept. The dying can also teach us.
Greg Cusack
Portland, Ore.

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