A Message form our Bishops
Now that physician assisted suicide has become more recognized by the public it is important as Catholics to look at the teachings of the Church for wisdom and guidance. The United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) published a statement titled To Live Each Day with Dignity. This statement created a concrete summary of the Catholic Church’s beliefs on Physician Assisted Suicide. The link below has the complete document which would be very beneficial to take a look at if you haven’t read it already. It brings up many points about physician assisted suicide and the misconceptions that are widely believed. The section that most people are blind to is when it addresses better options.
“There is an infinitely better way to address the needs of people with serious illnesses. Our society should embrace what Pope John Paul II called “the way of love and true mercy”—a readiness to surround patients with love, support, and companionship, providing the assistance needed to ease their physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. This approach must be anchored in unconditional respect for their human dignity, beginning with respect for the inherent value of their lives.” This is what is provided by palliative care organizations such as Divine Mercy. At the any time in our lives we have the option to love. Whether we choose this option defines our character and virtue. At the end of a person’s life is it important to truly understand which option is the one that is rooted in love. The perfect example of love is when Jesus laid down his life on the cross for us. When a loved one is reaching the end of their life we have to lay down our own convenience and fear to understand that they are in God’s hands and that supporting them is the best option. Whenever faced with a decisions the path of love is the one that will lead you and those affected by the decision closer to God.
A Reflection on Brittany Maynard
By Miranda Smith
After being diagnosed with stage four astrocytoma, also known as glioblastoma, Brittany Maynard was given 6 months to live. She decided to move to Oregon where there is a Death with Dignity Law that allowed Brittany to take drugs that would end her own life. Brittany decided the day of her death and became a public advocate for the opportunity to end your life in the case of disease. The movement known as the right-to-die movement gained popularity and support though Brittany’s witness and her eventual death on November first at the age of 26. This spark in the assisted suicide movement has caused many state legislatures, other than the five with current laws in place, to begin forming legislature that would legalize physician assisted suicide. This issue has become one of the most controversial today.
This story and all other’s about physician assisted suicide are heart breaking for many reasons. My mother had the same type of cancer as Brittany and it pains me to see how she and those who support her are so blind to the true experience of end of life care. Those who support the right-to-die movement are focusing on the pain that is associated with disease instead of the reality. As our family and countless others have experienced through palliative care; the end of life does not have any pain but instead is filled with blessings in the last moments you share with your loved ones. The last few months with my mother are so precious, I can’t imagine ever wanting to sacrifice the final time that my mother had with us on this earth. Countless people have told me about the positive effects that my mother had had on them after seeing how she bore her illness with such joy and strength. I fail to see are reason for taking away the time that would be spent with family in those last weeks. Divine Mercy and other supportive care companies make it possible for people to find comfort and peace during the end of a person’s life.
The cause of this movement and the continued support of physician assisted suicide is fear. Fear of pain, fear of not being able to control one’s own life, and fear of being a burden to family and friends. This is why I can’t imagine going through a terminal illness, or any other struggle, without faith. Faith is what takes away the fear that is present and allows us to trust in the Lord. Faith does not make things easy, but it makes them possible for us to endure. When we are able to let go of a situation and give it to God, then He will never abandon us. I pray for Brittany Maynard and all others who have taken their lives through physician assisted suicide that even without faith they will be able to find happiness with God. Even the strongest of us have moments when the burdens of life seem too great. It’s then that the Lord whispers to our hearts… “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
“Do not become upset when difficulty comes your way. Laugh in its face and know that you are in the hands of God.” This quote by St. Francis de Sales came to my family at a time when difficulty was present in a way we never knew would be possible. This is my story of this critical time in my life that formed me into the person I am today and led me to be the intern at Divine Mercy Supportive Care.
I should start by introducing myself. My name is Miranda Smith and I am a 20 year-old attending Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. I was born and raised here in Colorado with my parents and older brother. In November of 2013 -my freshman year of college- we learned that my mom had an aggressive brain tumor called glioblastoma. At this point in my life I had been very blessed not to have dealt with anything as difficult as this. I learned to rely fully on God and His plan instead of worrying about what I could not control. My mom is a very strong woman, she had surgery and then began chemotherapy and radiation. She started to improve and after months of treatments and pain I thought our lives would finally be back to normal (or at least as close as possible). But that was not God’s plan. My mom had a seizure in early July of 2014 and we learned that her tumor had returned and was more aggressive than before. This began the final journey of my mother’s life as her health continued to deteriorate.
It was at this time (when I was just about to head back to school) that our family started to explore hospice care options. After researching we found Divine Mercy and knew right away that it was exactly what we were looking for. As my mother’s health declined she required a hospital bed in our living room and many other medical devices that would make caring for her possible. Divine Mercy was able to provide all of that and so much more. Our nurse was absolutely brilliant and I never doubted that my mom was receiving the best care possible. This was a blessing that I didn’t fully understand how much I needed. For me, being home was too difficult; so I returned to school and would come home on the weekends to see her. I was only able to do this because I knew that my mother was being taken care of at home. She was surrounded by safety, and faith, and love. In that last month of her life Divine Mercy not only supported my mother, but also our family. We all had the comfort of knowing that we were doing all that we could to make her time on earth as peaceful and joyful as possible.
On September 28, 2014 my mom passed away painlessly in her sleep. She was 50 years old, and losing her at age 19 was the most challenging thing I have even had to endure. God does not make bad things happen; but when they do He will carry you through it and bring you many blessings in the midst of your suffering. There are countless blessing that have come after losing my mom, they do not take away the pain instead they make it possible for you to take up this cross and allow God to help you carry it. Divine Mercy was one of the greatest blessing to our family. They were able to support each member of my family in the way that we needed them. For me Divine Mercy gave me peace when I was away from my mother, because I knew that her and my family were being taken care of.
It was these blessings that called me to serve as the intern at Divine Mercy Supportive Care this summer. There is a saying “What you receive as a gift you must give as a gift”. This summer I hope to help bring help and peace to Divine Mercy by helping them in any way that I can. This blog will be one of my contributions, so this is not the last you will be hearing from me (and I promise I won’t be talking about myself most of the time). All I hope to do is share some of the love and blessings that God has given me. As St. Therese of Lisieux (one of my mom’s favorite saints) once said “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
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