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Quote About Dandelions

"You fight dandelions all weekend, and late Monday afternoon there they are, pert as all get out, in full and gorgeous bloom, pretty as can be, thriving as only dandelions can in the face of adversity."

-- Hal Borland

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Our Precious Lasts

There's a rapidly circulating article on a lovely young woman named Brittany who is choosing to end her life on November 1st, 2014 in order to avoid a painful death due to brain cancer.

I spent a solid 30 minutes sobbing after I read about her on A Cup of Jo - I have been "blessed" with the ability to feel strongly other people's pain.

My stance on the issue is not in line with Brittany's, but I feel for her. I am empathetic to how terrifying her limited number of days is. I understand how big that vacuum inside her heart is when she thinks about death and what comes after.

However, this post is not about her choice to decide the time and place of her death - that is not a topic I wish to carry out on social media – and others have done a much more eloquent job than I ever could. This post is about living.

As I scrolled through the comments on A Cup of Jo, one in particular stood out. Another woman who has been diagnosed with an illness made the point that today's society is so caught up in having amazing *new* experiences before we "kick the bucket" that we fail to think about how precious our *last* experiences will be. We as a society are disengaged from our elders, missing out on the opportunity to witness and participate in "lasts." We take the time to photograph or otherwise document a child’s thousands of “firsts”, but aren't an elderly person’s “lasts” just as important? 

The end of life is not what most would consider beautiful; it lacks the aesthetic nature of birth and childhood. But in so many ways, it is more so. The last days we have on this planet are our parting gifts to humanity. Our flourished - or scribbled - signature on the letter we wrote as we lived. The punctuation mark at the end of a sentence. And they are fleeting. 

I know from personal experience what a terrible thing it is to waste lasts. I grew up paying short visits to my great grandmother every year, but I was so much more interested in watching her TV or playing with her dogs and cats that I can only remember a handful of things she said before she passed away. In retrospect, she was one of the strongest, most unbiased, and loved-filled women to ever grace this planet. Her heart and home had room for everyone, even those society would consider unlovable. I completely missed out on learning from her, instead I only have snatches of her essence, so to speak, to remember her by. I would give so much to go back and talk with her, ask her questions, or just listen to her gently laugh at the antics of her large family.

I’ve thought about this over and over today, and wondered how I can change my thoughts on firsts and lasts. How I can mold my sense of appreciation to accept the nearing end of someone’s life. How I can learn to see it as beautiful and not something to be shut away and mentioned in hushed tones. How I can prepare to experience lasts in mine and other's lives. 

Because life is beautiful, and terrible, and hard and as it draws to a close the finale should be abundantly celebrated. It should be cherished. It should be brought out in the open and talked about – it is something we will all face and we might well face it with as much vigor as we can.  

 ♥ Sarah

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