Sunday, May 29, 2011

Youth in Asia

I mean euthanasia, of course, not to confuse you or to open a can of worms.

It was bound to come up here sooner or later, I suppose.  Not that I expected me to be the one, but it crossed the radar like a lead balloon:

9 March 1957 - 15 May 2011

Joekie (YOU-key) was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 years ago, went through chemo, and came out with a clean bill of health.  But out of nowhere, it all came back this year with a vengeance, invading first her bone marrow and then her entire body.  It was hopeless.  Incurable.

She was the one who said she wanted to do it.  The pain and suffering were not just hers but everyone's.  Her husband and 2 grown children agreed.  It was time.

Astrid got the call from her son two weeks ago Saturday.  They would do it the next day, Sunday, witnessed by two physicians.  The legal paperwork had all been done.

We were in the car at the time, stopped for a photo I was taking of a weathervane (ironic symbolism?).  When I saw Astrid's tears, I knew something was wrong.  Joekie was her cousin-in-law by previous marriage, dearly loved by the family.  Only 54 years old.  This would be a huge loss.  But even in her tearful grief, Astrid was relieved.  It would soon be over.

By Tuesday, 3 days after the news, we received the death announcement and the date for the memorial service on the 20th, a week ago.  500 family and friends were in attendance.

Ze zag het leven als een vrolijk lied en bezong het vanuit haar hart.
She saw life as a lively song and sang it from her heart.

Ironically, as I write this post, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a.k.a. Dr. Death, is hospitalized in America for pneumonia and kidney problems, age 83.  Last October when we were in Atlanta we watched the TV documentary of his life, starring Al Pacino:  You Don't Know Jack.  I sit here right now, dumbfounded that he spent 8 years in prision for doing what 2 doctors did mercifully here in The Netherlands 2 weeks someone in Astrid's extended family.

When it gets this close and personal, it changes everything.  Astrid has cried more than once these past 2 weeks and I have cried with her.  But never once has she regretted the decision Joekie made.  Never once has she second-guessed anything.  As she would say, it's just 'natural.'

This post isn't meant for controversy or debate.  It's just for the tears and for the simplicity and fragility of death-by-choice when it makes sense.  It doesn't feel like suicide.  It doesn't feel like playing God.  It just feels like plain and simple mercy.  Surely even God weeps.

[Image from The Three Mermaids statue in Drøbak, Norway.]

ADDENDUM:  Dr. Jack Kevorkian died on 3 June 2011.

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