Uneven aging: The Brickendens light a path
|Photo: The Globe & Mail|
Sometimes an obituary grabs your heart. The Brickendens, Shirley and George, were such persons. Remarkable from their first meeting to their joint and chosen medically-assisted death, they illuminate a path some of us are just beginning to discern.
An interview given less than a week before they died, in which they explain their decision, is here.
The couple was a classic case of uneven aging in advanced old age: Shirley, 94, obtained approval for assisted death over a year ago, but for one of the two doctors required to approve the procedure, George did not meet the criteria. Then, at 95, he caught up.
After nearly 73 years together, they "flew away", as they always put it, holding hands in their own bed.
Their way is not for everyone, but it resonates for me because I saw, during the years when I worked in two large hospitals, that when a patient was in an advanced state of irreversible decline, unbearable suffering ennobled no one.
I am beginning to witness the end of life more frequently, among my own friends and family. Some endings are graceful, some are fraught. One day, I would like to be able to make certain decisions, difficult though they may be, and want my wishes to be compassionately respected. My beliefs allow the possibility of euthanasia, so I am watching as Quebec carefully tests this newly-acquired right. Over three hundred persons were approved for the option in 2017.
The Brickendens left after loving farewells and good champagne. I am grateful to them for publicly describing their poignant, entirely informed, and now legal act.