End of Life Options – A Profession of Faith

(photo collage subjects drawn from Internet searches using Google Images)

It’s so different, writing for a research paper for university work and writing a story about the same topic.  As I sit here at my desk, surrounded by books about Conscience, about morals, about conflicting topics of the duality and the intimacy of body and soul, as I find myself buried in trying to understand the competing philosophies of a Saint and Pope and the denial of the existence of God, the One or the many, or any at all, I’m made to realize by a simple story of a man and a church how much differently stories about lives tell about Truth.  This short essay is written to illustrate a Truth about end-of-life faith.

Randy Pausch was an outstanding computer scientist and professor.  He lead the team that created a computer programming called Alice, helping to teach computer programming to students.  He used an interdisciplinary approach to his work, including skilled members from across the academic and business spectrum in his work.

August 2007 was a pivotal month for Randy.  He learned his pancreatic cancer had reemerged and his time remaining in our material world was very short.  What did Randy do?  Randy wrote and delivered an inspiring lecture, and collaborate with a partner to write a book following the same theme.  “Really Achieve Your Childhood Dreams” was delivered to a packed auditorium at Carnegie Mellon University.  It was recorded and delivered in video format on YouTube.  Randy’s work became known as “The Last Lecture” and received world-wide acclaim, inspiring millions.  Read more about Randy and his work at www.cmu.edu/randyslecture.

Brittany Maynard was a wife and desired to be a mother.  Professionally, she took her psychology and education degrees and taught overseas in orphanages in Nepal and southeast Asian countries.  Brittany was diagnosed with brain cancer in April of 2014, and despite treatment, the cancer was not suppressed.  Concerned with her prognosis and expectations of a painful death, Brittany chose to move from California to Oregon, where physician assisted suicide is legal.  On November 1st, 2014, Brittany committed suicide.  Read and watch more about Brittany’s story at http://thebrittanyfund.org/.  The Brittany Fund is her legacy, established by her husband to support the cause of ‘death-with-dignity’.  Brittany herself is recorded providing her reasoning.

These days, ‘fake news’ makes the rounds on the Internet rather easily, highly promoted through social media.  Who knows what we might and should believe verse what is simply rubbish.  However, in this case, the story seems well vetted.  The video comes to us via WAVY-TV 10, my favorite local news station when I was stationed in Norfolk VA during my Navy career.

Consider the story of Greg Thomas, who happens to be my age as well, so this one hits close to home with me.  Greg was diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer.  He was given only three months to live.  Greg took long walks with his dog through Minnesota farmland, and found in his treks a small country church that was abandoned.  Greg cried numerous times on the front stairs of that locked church sanctuary.  One day, Greg decided (or was he ‘inspired’?) to begin restoring that church.  Greg’s story finds him completing the refurbishment of the church while restoring a local community.  And, yes, Greg finds his cancer in remission.  Read and see more of Greg’s story at http://www.littlethings.com/greg-thomas-church-miracle/?utm_source=kaz&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=miracle.

Finally, let’s take a tandem case of Jewish men from Austria in the 1930’s, as Germany expanded its empire and conspired to destroy the Jewish race.  Most of us are familiar with Sigmund Freud.  His impact on our society is remarkable, no doubt.  Fewer of us are probably aware of Viktor Frankl, once a student of Freud’s.  For all Dr. Freud’s accomplishments, he decided to commit suicide when he contracted cancer on his tongue.  Viktor Frankl chose to stay in Austria to care for his parents, and all were taken to concentration camps.  Facing death, Dr. Frankl fought a daily battle to stay alive in Auschwitz.  He witnessed the martyrdom of Father Maximillian Kolby.  He lost his parents in those camps.  Yet, his daily struggle helped to save many lives.  Following the war and his release from the camps, Dr. Frankl continued his works, writing and lecturing on “Man’s Search for Meaning”.  One may read about Dr. Freud’s death with a simple Internet search.  Dr. Frankl’s work can be found at www.barnesandnoble.com or www.amazon.com.

Randy Pausch, Greg Thomas, and Viktor Frankl showed us one way of facing certain death.  Randy received no reprieve.  Greg and Viktor did.  Yet, all three continued along a path of giving of themselves and inspiring others while they continued to walk the path of their lives.

Who knows what Dr. Freud and Brittny may have accomplished had they chosen differently?  I’ve read some of Dr. Freud’s philosophy outside of his professional work.  I felt I was sitting on the floor listening to a grandfather’s wisdom.  What more could he have shared with us, how else could he have inspired generations had he chosen to live?  Brittny’s efforts and success at committing suicide inspired a law for California, one which was passes and now allows others to terminate their lives at will.

We do not know what our lives will bring nor whom we may affect and in what way.  What is certain is no one will know when we chose to cut them short of our own choice, rather than to live through whatever pain and struggle we may face to a natural end.  It is evident in these examples of those who have lived to each of their ends, there are differences to be noted, differences that illustrate a faith in God and in the gift of an embodied Spirit given to each of us to serve Him and our brothers and sisters.

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