Politics are my lifelong passion, grief my lifelong burden.
When cancer grief brought my political activity to a standstill, my burden became an opportunity. I studied the grief process.
People dealing with grief warn of deepening problems if we fail to grieve immediately surrounding loss. They subscribe the stages of grief outlined by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, including denial, shock, anger, depression, bargaining, understanding and acceptance.
Death is ultimately personal. Understanding is prerequisite to giving comfort.
My losses during childhood had been silenced. The grief accumulated with the loss of my father in 1969 and my husband the next year. I did no conscious grief work.
Ten years later, the loss of my only sister, cancer surgery, job loss, loss of a hero, heart attack and chronic pain, all in rapid succession, forced me to deal with stored pain or perish.
Study led to grief presentations at the Unitarian Church, discussion groups, and to intensive political activity on the death with dignity Initiative 119 in the 1991 election.
Petition signers became my teachers. Each story led to a similar conclusion. We wanted to be our own gatekeepers, come to terms with our own mortality, cherish what we learned from life’s experience, share our journey with others, honor failures and successes, learn about foreign cultures’ approach to death and dying, and have a say in our dying process.
Facing our own mortality obtains sharper focus for lifetime goals.
Smug pretense falls away, falseness flees and life becomes more precious through awareness.
We recognize like-minded courage in others doing grief work and share new basis for friendship. Private issues of final-stage terminal illness assistance are ever more visible in the news. Focusing on them affords opportunity to examine personal belief.
Making and interpreting laws demands consideration of every citizen’s cultural, religious, and preferred path for life’s end. When one has the right to choose a path of dying that has dignity, even though different from another’s, all have the same right.
Choices now offered covertly must be made legal.
Public safety must be established and balanced with individual choice.
Control over one’s dying is an honorable extension of living. The business of living is making choices, especially the last one.
If the time comes that I need to choose assistance, I want the peace of designing my final moments legally.
MEMO: Betty Drumheller, now of Deer Park, is a former Democratic National Committeewoman from Washington. For several years she ran the late U.S. Sen. Warren G. Magnuson’s office in Spokane.
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