Media Vita in Morte Sumus

I awoke this morning to find two contrasting stories. One (which I’ve been following here) is the story of Lauren Hill’s debut for the University of Mount St. Joseph Lions, as the 19-year-old tries to squeeze what she can from her favorite game in the face of the brain cancer that will in all likelihood end her life before the year is out. The other involves Brittany Maynard. The 29-year-old teacher was also afflicted with a terminal brain cancer, and chose to end her own life before the disease did. According to Compassion & Choices, described as an “end-of-life advocacy group”, Ms. Maynard died “peacefully, in the arms of her loved ones.”

I will not, indeed cannot presume to judge the choices of either of these women, nor do I know what choices I would make in their circumstances. However, I find it interesting that both these women are being hailed as heroes, despite having made seemingly irreconcilable decisions. I suspect that on some level, this may indicate a fault line in our culture. May they both enjoy the peace of God.



About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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3 Responses to Media Vita in Morte Sumus

  1. dave.s. says:

    I’m not too sure how different – depends on what stage they are in. Death can be unremitting awful loss of control, loss of self, loss of bowels, humiliation, pain. And it can consume all the little treasure you put aside all your life to try and give your kids a start. We went to visit my mother’s buddy the other day, in my Driving Miss Daisy mode. It’s gone, the body is a husk, and the meter is running on everything she prized and would want her son to have. To short-circuit that while you still have some agency is attractive. And Brittany Maynard has spent the last six months checking things off on her bucket list.

    Lauren Hill is herself working down the bucket list. When things get worse, what will she choose?

    My mother, I think, has squirreled away some pills. I’ve told her I hate this, and am squeamish, and won’t help her, but I understand what she’s thinking.

    My fave, of course, is the line attrib to Elizabeth R: ‘everything I own for one more day of life’. But she wasn’t facing tubes and the Alzheimer’s ward, not in 1603. Our ability to prolong life is ahead of our ability to prolong good life.

  2. profmondo says:

    Yeah, I understand. As I’ve mentioned, my mom suffered from MS for 30+ years, and would occasionally talk about taking matters into her own hands if the situation grew sufficiently dire. Her mom, meanwhile, died over a two-year bedridden period from a series of strokes. It’s a hard call, and as I said, not one that’s in my pay grade. I still can’t help seeing them as two sides of a coin.

  3. dave.s. says:

    My ma is desperately afraid of becoming a struldbrug. As am I. Roger McGough, you betcha!

    poet Roger McGough
    #67 on top 500 poets

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    Poems by Roger McGough : 6 / 16

    « Kinetic poem no.2
    Mrs Moon »

    Let Me Die A Youngman’s Death

    Let me die a youngman’s death
    not a clean and inbetween
    the sheets holywater death
    not a famous-last-words
    peaceful out of breath death

    When I’m 73
    and in constant good tumour
    may I be mown down at dawn
    by a bright red sports car
    on my way home
    from an allnight party

    Or when I’m 91
    with silver hair
    and sitting in a barber’s chair
    may rival gangsters
    with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
    and give me a short back and insides

    Or when I’m 104
    and banned from the Cavern
    may my mistress
    catching me in bed with her daughter
    and fearing for her son
    cut me up into little pieces
    and throw away every piece but one

    Let me die a youngman’s death
    not a free from sin tiptoe in
    candle wax and waning death
    not a curtains drawn by angels borne
    ‘what a nice way to go’ death

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