As soon as I read her letter to Brittany Maynard over at Ann Voskamp’s site, I couldn’t turn away.

I was captivated by Kara Tippetts’ words. So saturated with grace. So infused with humility. And this, coming from a young mom of four who is dying of cancer herself.

I clicked over to her blog, then to her Facebook page, then her Twitter profile. My fingers hovered over the keyboard, and I paused.

I couldn’t bring myself to click “Follow.”

The truth is, I didn’t want to see the end.

I didn’t want to become so wrapped up in her story, a story that was all-too-familiar — and then have her vanish from the screen, unable to type any more. I knew a day would dawn when the updates would stop coming, when the pictures would be recycled and no new images would appear.

A time would come when she would be gone.

And I wanted to protect myself from that pain.

Imagine that.

I, sitting in my comfortable house, free from illness and disease, wanted to protect myself from witnessing someone else’s suffering.

How selfish of me. How pathetic, really.

If that were how I wanted to live, then why bother investing pieces of my heart into anyone’s story? Isn’t life all about the giving of one’s heart, piece by broken piece, cupped by the One in Whom all things hold together?

So that day, as I sat staring at Kara’s story on my computer screen, something (or maybe Someone) caused me to click “Follow.”

And my heart has been all tangled up in her story ever since.

 

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I see my mom in her eyes. Her eyes that still sparkle, even though dark cancer circles have made them sink in around the sockets.

I hear my voice in her husband’s phone call, the one that told Hospice it was time to come. I know that wheelchair, the one they resisted for so long, determined to walk unaided.

 

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It baffles me how her smile can still be so radiant when she endures such constant pain.

And then I see Jesus. I see Christ in her, the hope of glory.

She shines hope.

 

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I see her, shining Jesus through her suffering, and I can’t help but think of those who support the Death with Dignity Act. Setting aside arguments for or against a person’s choice or right to end one’s own life, it’s the word dignity that gets to me. You see, the Death with Dignity Act presumes that a person who suffers at the end of their life does not die with dignity.

Is that really true?

If so, what about Kara? One look at her photo, one glance at her words, and that theory falls flat on its face.

My mom fought cancer for nine years until the Lord called her home at age 59. She clung to Jesus, but she suffered tremendously. Does that mean her death was absent of dignity?

If suffering in death equals an absence of dignity, then it means that Jesus Christ most certainly did not die with dignity. He suffered more than any other person on earth. Even before the cross, on the night he was betrayed, he prayed, ““Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). But that’s not where he stopped: “…yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Dignity goes beyond the absence of suffering.

 

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It shines brightest in how a person suffers. How they cling to hope, an anchor for the soul. How they endure and persevere, and in the end will be rewarded with “well done, good and faithful servant.”

We need Jesus.

 

 

32 thoughts on “on dying with dignity

  1. Oh Kate…you make me speechless again! I remember reading Kara’s story as well and being amazed at her strength, peace, and, yes, dignity. Her words resonated with me, though perhaps I also unconsciously decided to “protect” myself too, as I haven’t really followed her story since. I guess it’s time to read along again, even knowing that some day the words will cease.

    Beautiful post, friend!

  2. Kate, this is so incredibly beautiful! I read Kara’s story over on Ann’s blog, and I too was captured by her strength–strength that comes from knowing the Lord. This post is a beautiful tribute to your mom. I’m so sorry you had to lose her so early. May the Lord continue to fill you with His eternal perspective so full of peace. Blessings to you!

  3. Kate- The sounds of this message is rich and needs to be rung in hearts all over the world. Thank you for sharing Kara’s story… but mostly for engaging in it. Because the decisions that need to be made on behalf of all suffering/dying people need to come from those who know suffering, dignity, and hope first hand. I’m sharing…and praying.

  4. Yes, Kate, I would agree with you.

    I have just recently been reading your blog… first of all because of 5 Minute Friday and then I was pulled in by your writing and your story.

    I too walked with my mother as she battled cancer. This coming Sunday will mark 13 years since she went home to Jesus. January is tough and I never really look forward to this month. (Her birthday is Jan 30) so it’s a hard month.

    I also agree with you that when I remember my mother I remember her strength…even until the end and how she left her suffering behind to find eternal joy with Him.

    Thank you for these words of remembering.

    (Your neighbor today at #TellHisStory).

  5. WOW – dignity going beyond suffering. Beautiful thought expressed well. I’ve been following Kara for some time. We are given a gift of grace in her story, her willingness to share her journey with all of us!

  6. My mom did not suffer like my dad did, but they both died with dignity. What you wrote made me stop and think. I was once mad that God let my dad suffer, though I no longer am. However,it still jolted me when you brought in Christ’s death. You ‘re right.

  7. This is a very beautiful and powerful post. I also follow Kara, and like you I did hesitate but am so glad I followed her story it has been a gift and I have learned so much from following her journey.

  8. I first “met” Kara through her letter on Anns’ website. I am amazed at her courage, her hope and her faith. I used part of her obituary in a blog post. I do not agree with what she did or the Death with Dignity Act but chose not to comment on that. Instead I wrote about how we sometimes take each day for granted, assuming that there will be tomorrow, and how being grateful can cause change. I have just started a new blog journaling my faith journey, and I am so glad I stopped by here today and read your words. I look forward to reading more.

      • Just a misplaced pronoun! I was referring to Brittany’s obituary and Kara’s courage, hope, and faith during her battle with cancer. Sorry for any confusion and thanks for correcting this.

  9. wow. I am so glad I read this. Kara’s story has caught me on Focus on the Family. and you are right…its so hard to enter into it. To know the pain thats tangible, the outcome thats fast coming…to know the way it will end probably won’t be how we wanted it to. To know that her mama heart is crushed knowing she won’t get to see those kids grow up big and strong…and yet like you said to possess great dignity in her choosing to exit this world in the exact way God wants her to. Seeing the dignity of someone who bravely says, “Yes” to God’s Will every day that she wakes up to do it again and go through all the joy and agony of knowing…”Is it the last?” yet choosing joy anyway. this is a beautiful piece Kate. Great perspective. Thanks.

  10. I guess I can talk about this – I’m dying, and have thus far rather surprised the doctors by still being here.

    Dignity isn’t in how we choose to die; it’s in how we choose to live while we’re in that private Isandlwana.

    Dignity is knowing there is always one more positive thing you can do, or say.

    Dignity is falling in the dirt because it hurts too much to stand, and then pulling yourself back up, and carrying on. I do this every day, and I’m usually spitting blood.

    Dignity is DUTY.

    Life isn’t a feel-good meet-it-on-my-own-terms exercise. This world is an abattoir of the innocent and the good, and being upset because one is dying is both ungrateful and selfish.

    And choosing suicide to spare oneself the ‘indignity’ is cowardly. It’s an affront to those who fight against the odds to last one more day, to see one more sunrise, to grasp one more sliver of hope from the darkness.

    I’m sorry…or maybe I’m not, really…for the strident tone. I read the interview Ms. Maynard’s husband gave today, giving details of her last day.

    She went for a 90-minute hike, and then chose to kill herself. After a visit to the Grand Canyon.

    I can’t even make it to the mailbox without resting – and vomiting. Heck, I can’t leave the property any more – a car ride hurts too much.

    So I guess, since I live in a state where offing oneself is legal, I should get on with it? Drift off to sleep? Spare myself the pain, and spare others the discomfort of seeing me?

    These people put a pretty face on self-execution, to make it palatable. To make it sound romantic, even. Bring on the violins, and die in your loved ones’ arms.

    How many others will opt out of the good they could have made of their final months?

    How many others will turn their backs on the gift that is in each day, even if that day’s hopeless?

    How many others will refuse to use the flame of despair to light a beacon of hope for others?

    Not me.

    • Popping in here, as a reader, to say that I’ve read your words, have prayed for you, and am bowled over by the grace and truth of your words. Dignity is duty … Yes. Just … thanks. I’ll carry you in my heart, in my prayers.

    • Andrew, your words are so raw and real and cut right to the heart of this matter. “Dignity is DUTY.” Yes, it is, isn’t it? I can not imagine what you are facing or going through on a day-to-day basis. But I can stand with you in prayer and believing in hope and dignity as a way of life…even when facing death. Your words inspire me and you are in my prayers. xo

    • I echo the sentiments…these are truly powerful words. Words that make me think about death differently than I have before. My mom didn’t suffer like yours did…that I know of. As far as I know, she died peacefully in her sleep. But if she had suffered, and maybe if she did, surely it didn’t mean she died without dignity…as has nobody that’s ever died through suffering. And your relation to Christ as the ultimate example of that? Yes. I’ve never ever thought of that. It’s the most PERFECT example. Thank you for this, Kate. Thank you for being brave and hitting the keys and hitting Publish. Your words move. <3

  11. Amen. Cancer took my grandpa, and it wasn’t pretty or quick or painless. But he died with dignity. Some of the last words he spoke were, “I can still sing!” And that’s dying with dignity. Knowing you can praise your Savior even when nothing else makes sense.

  12. “How they endure and persevere, and in the end will be rewarded with ‘well done, good and faithful servant.'”

    I want that kind of dignity not just in the final days but in every day…and I guess not knowing when my last day will be, each day is like a final day that I need to live with purpose for His glory.

    Your words brought me in and now I am following as well. Imagine that! I adore you and your heart Kate!

  13. Amen. My grandma suffered and died from ALS – a disease that is deadly, has no cure, and until recently no awareness – over the course of a decade. Yet she died in Joy. In Light. She was a light to so many. Thank you for sharing another story of light in a world that doesn’t recognize light when it sees it. So we must unveil it for one another. Bless you.

  14. Ah Kate your words just resonate with me. I admit to having been afraid to get too involved in someone’s story because I know what the ending is going to be. There is so much suffering out there. But suffering with dignity is actually something we DO need to see and giving encouragement to those going through it. Just reading about Kara’s story, although I’ve never been to her site, got my tears going and your words gave me added perspective Thanks!

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Carol. It is hard to wrap oneself around someone else’s story, and yet I’m convinced that God allows that to happen for our own growth as well. Blessings to you.

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