Brittany Maynard, 29, who is featured everywhere (People magazine, CNN, CBS, Compassion and Choices website) shares details of her terminal brain tumor and her choice to end her life. The physician writer Atul Gawande with his latest book Being Mortal Medicine and What Matters In The End recently appeared on Jon Stewart telling us to attend to life with meaning, a life rich and full as possible under whatever the circumstances. These are closely on the heels of books like The Cost of Hope and Knocking on Heaven’s Door and websites such as Death over Dinner and The Conversation Project.
Since it appears we are talking more about dying could it mean that this great big taboo that makes us all not be prepared for death is coming undone? Could this be the baby boomers latest and perhaps greatest cultural movement? Is Brittany Maynard’s stance on how she choices to die making us argue among ourselves about her choices AND prompting looking down our own pebbled path of wonderment to our last days?
I wonder then and of course hope that all this talk maybe is making us consider end of life isn’t about doing what you can. That we are beginning to look beyond (or get past) our fixation with medicalizing dying, refocusing on life itself and what’s been important to you and realizing whatever that is still is in the end.
Surely too part of this lifting of the taboo is recognizing that how we live well when death is close means different things to different people. There’s no wrong way to die. What’s wrong is not talking about what’s really important to you besides simply just living longer. If ever a taboo itself should be deemed improper and unacceptable to society it’s this one! I say goodbye and good riddance.