Rainbows and Rememberances

It’s been an introspective week, monitoring my stress levels and emotional energy and seeing where I’m at, really. Looking at that last entry, I’m baffled at the strength of my rage over that image. It’s certainly infuriating, and something I feel very strongly about, but the instant passion of my anger isn’t something that’s happened before. Looking at it now, it angers me, but it’s nowhere near the level of pissing me off that it was before. I don’t fully understand why it affected me so strongly, so instantly, and so darkly.

Something for my therapist and I to work on.

Today I found a link on my Facebook feed to a blog post about my friend with ALS who chose to end her life. It is a photographer who connected with her and documented the end of her life, the days leading up to and the actual end. Llewellyn Gannon’s photographs are beautiful, personal, and intimate. Her story gave me closure I didn’t have before, to know exactly how things happened, something more than a final farewell post from my friend on Facebook.

She chose to die surrounded by her loved ones on a beautiful April afternoon. I can’t think of a better way to tell her story, and to show why Death with Dignity is so important, than Llewellyn already has with her pictures and her words. So I will simply link it here, and warn you that there is death, and beauty, and nakedness, and fragility, and love, and power in these images. Proceed with an open heart.


Thank you, Sherrie, for showing me the way, and thank you, Llewellyn, for your art and your love and your generosity.

Not even going to mince words here.

Fuck everything about this image. Fuck the message it conveys, fuck the people who made it, fuck the president of the stupid fucking website it came from.

suffering is not beautiful
suffering is not beautiful

I’ve ranted about this before. And I will again. Because every time I hear something like this, every time I see something like this, I am filled with a rage indescribable in its intensity. I am sitting here, sobbing, because I’m angry. Because I’m afraid of someone thinking they have the power to make this decision on my behalf. And because I can’t make them understand. Short of committing an act of extreme violence or wishing something horrible to happen to a loved one to present them with the opportunity to reconsider their opinion, I am completely unable to make them understand how fucking HATEFUL this is. I want you to look at a dying woman with inoperable cancer and tell her how lucky she is to participate in the passion of Jesus Christ.

In my rage, I typed, “Let me stick a knife in your guts and then while your stomach acid digests you from the inside out, you can tell me how beautiful your suffering is.”

There is no grace, no beauty, and no “opportunity” inherent in terminal disease. There is nothing beautiful about starving to death because you’re unable to eat. There’s nothing graceful about shitting your bed every day. There’s no opportunity to be found while trapped in a shell of meat you’re unable to control, no opportunity when you’re in a hospital bed wracked with pain that the strongest drugs can’t touch, no opportunity while your memories and self slip away until you’re nothing but a meat robot that looks like someone your friends and relatives used to love.

We FIND grace, beauty, and opportunity in dying because we must. Because we have no choice but to laugh at pain, to smile at death, and to accept. Because we can not fathom a world in which suffering is for nothing and pain has no reason or purpose. And when all hope for life is lost, we find a new hope in allowing an end to the torment. In accepting our own death, at last, we find grace in deciding when your limit is reached, beauty in allowing the suffering to end, and opportunity to end things on your own terms, in your own way, in your own time.

Enjoy the life you live, that you are allowed to have such a hateful opinion because you have no idea what it’s like to be close to someone who wants nothing more than a quick end to their inevitable, pointless suffering. Praise Jesus that you don’t have the opportunity to make this decision for yourself because you’ve still got a life ahead of you. And enjoy that you have the opportunity to think you are entitled to make this decision for others.

Because you don’t.

You really fucking don’t.

He, She, Me.


A few weeks ago, a few very short weeks, a friend posted something in her facebook along the lines of “our routine doctor appointment turned into a little bit more. He’s being admitted right now, but please don’t worry!”

…and I worried.

She’s like me. Bubbly, happy, all about best possible outcomes, optimism, and smiles. She’s a joy to be around. He’s a sardonic, sarcastic, clever man who used to be my boss. You know he’s awesome if he used to be the boss of me and we STILL talk. He’s snarky and hilarious. They’re both a pair of my favorite people. Still can’t believe they hooked up, much less got married, but they’re fucking perfect for each other and I’m really glad they did. I love them to pieces.

So when she, bubbly, optimistic She, didn’t SAY what had gone awry, I knew it wasn’t good. And then I was invited to a support/information group created in facebook, to keep in touch with what was happening and how we could all help. And then, scary words eventually saw the light of day. Cancer. Stage 4. Scant months to live. Maybe more if chemo works.

And just like that, their lives were over as they knew it. And just like that, the floor dropped away from all of us who knew and loved them.

I can’t even pretend to say I know what it’s like to be told you have a short and definite lifespan. I know how it was for me, how it continues to be, but I can’t even fathom what he’s going through. His time is so much shorter than mine, his notice so much more sudden. He has a wife. And while they’re publicly taking it with grace, no one knows what’s going on inside. Some aspects I can guess at; the panic of Time suddenly a companion, yelling at you about all the things you have to do before you go. The complete bafflement of, how did this happen. Is there something I could have done? But then there’s also the chemo – unlike my timeline, there’s a chance for an extended cut, but only if you can withstand it. And now they have to decide quality of life vs. quantity. And I know that mental argument very well.

There’s absolutely nothing I can do but stand by and love them, and listen, and hold space. And when they make decisions, honor them. Be there as much as they will allow me to be. And then let him go.

It’s the only thing within my power.


I wrote about her awhile ago. She was suffering from bulbar onset ALS, and she gave me the chance to figure out and to talk about how I feel about assisted suicide. And she gave me the courage to tell all of you, and start that difficult conversation. It’s a really hard thing, to tell everyone that you are probably going to take your own life and they’re going to have to forgive and be okay with it. She did it with perfect grace.

She had been fighting the Boss Fight of ALS for awhile. Her decline was fast. I only knew her through facebook posts, and it seemed like daily there was another struggle, another development. But she faced it with so much fucking GRACE, and smiles, and gratitude. Her posts weren’t about how she’d never live to see her son grow up, they were about the daily joy she found in his company and the treasure trove of memories she was building for him. Her posts weren’t about her medical suffering, they were about the gratitude for the people who helped her through it all. Look for the rainbows, she says constantly.

April 4th, she had fought enough. She left a goodbye, and a video for her son, and the last words, “Enjoy. I have.”

And then she let go. And so I, too, let her go.


I’m losing strength in my hands.

I’ve been noticing maybe a month or two now, but I’ve been in complete and total denial. The mailbox lock has ALWAYS been hard, it’s just a bit more difficult to turn the key; must have frozen or something. The lid to the cup is way more difficult to pry off because it’s new. Cutting a piece of steak cramps up my hands, but hey, it’s just cramps. I had AGES before my foot strength was lost after the cramps started, right? My hands are shaking while holding my laptop because I’m just tired. The word of the day and things that I write up on my whiteboard every day just SEEM a little shakier. But I’m sure it’s nothing. Right?

Friday, April 4th, I fell. For no reason. It was the first time that happened; I wasn’t tripping on anything or trying to maneuver, I just…fell. And wrenched my ankle. And felt very sorry for myself and frustrated. And so I told Dr. Goslin this, on Thursday during my appointment. And she confirmed I’m losing strength in my hips.

…And I said I think I might be losing strength in my hands. She did the usual tests. And proved that I am.

I was absolutely right in that this? This is a trigger. This is panic and terror and the beginning of the end. And this makes everything so much worse. My timelines have shifted, and things I thought I had some time to do, I suddenly don’t. I have to write the letters while my handwriting is still stable. I have to do all the things I can’t, soon. And I’m freaking the fuck out. Because I don’t know what else to do but scream.

She asked if I’d like to borrow a motorized wheelchair to see how it works out. And internally I flipped the fuck out because I am NOT ready for that. No way no how. But outwardly I politely declined and said I’d like to wait awhile before going down that road. She agreed that I have a lot more time of mobility left, so there’s no rush. But it’s coming. Danielle suggested one of those old-people jar opening assist things. And I panicked a little but kept it in. I said maybe a walker, but not a wheelchair. Not yet. But my hands are going to have to be accommodated for.

After the appointment we went to the store to get some meds and some air fresheners for the empty rooms in my house that I’m clearing out for sale. And I couldn’t get the fucking tops of them off. I had to use my teeth. I still have dexterity, but my strength is going. And so, too, are all of the things I thought I could do to keep the loss of mobility tolerable. For now I can still type. I can still play video games. But I thought I had so much more time before I had to think about the end of those things. To a time when I can’t use chopsticks, to when I can’t pull myself out of bed, to when I can’t dress myself.

And it scares the motherfucking SHIT out of me.

I’ll get accustomed to the changes as they come. I’ll persevere. But I feel like this is kind of when I really start to die. No mobility? Whatever, that’s okay. Seriously. It sucks, but a wheelchair isn’t that bad. This is a hardship, but not the end. When I am no longer able to draw stupid pictures, no longer able to frost a cupcake, no longer able to chat, no longer able to launch Skyrim…that is the death of me. When I am no longer able to even fucking pet my cats. That begins the days of the useless shell that I become. I wonder if I’ll want to go get the prescription the day I drop something for no reason. I won’t use it yet, but I wonder if that’s going to be the preflight check. When I will start thinking seriously about the endgame.

And I don’t know if I’ll have the strength to let go, when all I feel like doing is trying to hold on.

And I’m really, really scared.

“It’s a beastly, undignified business.”

Terry Pratchett died yesterday. He was 66 and suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease. He was a brilliant mind, and the world is so much poorer for his absence.

In 2011, three years after his diagnosis, he made a film called Choosing to Die. He met with an extremely British man, Peter Smedley, who had motor neurone disease – known here in the States as ALS. Peter was about the same stage as I am when he chose to die, weakness in his legs that made it difficult to walk and get up out of chairs. He had a very bright mind, and saw clearly the end of his path. He didn’t want his story to end that way, so he went to Switzerland and wrote his own exit. His wife was immaculate and also extremely British and very “keep calm and carry on”. They both kept a very strong face through it all.

I did not expect to actually see the man die.

I am glad they filmed it. It was a very good and honest look at the mechanics of the assisted death. And even though it was hard to watch, I am grateful that he shared his story. It was surreal to see someone at the same stage as I, with the same mindset, take the steps. Earlier than I would ever have. So much earlier. But he knew where he was going and did not want that undignified end, and so he took the poison and his wife stroked his hand and he fell asleep and died.

And he had to go to Switzerland to do it.

I am so, so grateful, again, to live in a state where it’s legal. How anyone can deny someone the right to die comfortably in their own homes on their own terms is quite beyond me.

It is, indeed, a beastly, undignified business.

Thank God for Happy Planets in My Orbit.

Chat Log from today.

Eric: you write to much
going to need you to cut that down to like 2 paragraphs


Eric: yeah add a tl;dr on that shit
process improving
but do tell me before it happens

me: I will. fo sho

Eric: i need to know so i can come steal that zombie tramp poster before anyone else
you know how it goes

me: hahaha I will make sure you get it.

Eric: and your baking stuff then we’ll call it square for all my years of service

me: hmmmm baking stuff might be a hard sell
I can add you to the pool of people to divvy that shit up

Eric: i dont want the divy
i want it all
im more qualified than anyone else

me: ….besides Eryn who went to culinary school with me

Eric: with my deep german baking heritage

me: hehehe

Eric: do i hear bake off?

me: XD

Eric: ok ok
if i make you the most amazing black forest cake
you put my name in the hat twice
k deal
and now i take my leave
to go sit in a class with people who dont even take notes

me: ok bye

Eric: DEAL

me: (you forget I don’t like chocolate cake)

Eric: no i dont
but you’d eat it because it was the most amazing of all cakes
then you’d be like, shit my als is gone
too amazing

me: hahahahh I <3 you And I really do. Eric’s a good kid. The little brother I never had, even though I have a little brother. He is my spark of mischief, I am his Jimmy the Cricket.

Two quick things…

Before we return to our regularly scheduled sweary shenanigans and inappropriate morbid humor, I want to say two further things about assisted suicide, and then we’ll move on.

1) This is not gonna happen for me for a long long time. So don’t go writing any eulogies or shit, cause I’m still here. I’ll give y’all lots of warning if/when that happens, but for now, you fuckers are stuck with me. Swearing ALL the swears.

2) It is BEYOND fucking RIDICULOUS that the criteria to qualify for DwD does NOT include dementia. FOR FUCKS SAKE. It is patently UNFAIR that these reasoning people can’t choose their end when they start to lose their reason. The body may not be in decline, but their LIFE certainly is. They are dying. Their bodies are just going to take a bit to catch up. Let them check out with class, for fucks sake.


(Okay, sorry, it’s been a long time but I knew this post needed to be next and it was really hard to think clearly about. For reasons that will become very clear. This post won’t be a happy one, I wager.)

There’s a chair, a table. The table has three prescription bottles on it. The chair is draped with colorful striped fabric. She enters the screen, sits calmly, and smiles warmly at the camera. She picks up one of the bottles.

“I got my prescription today, to end my life when I see fit.”

She says it with a little difficulty, but it’s ALS, not emotion, that makes it hard to talk. She’s calm. Confident that she’s made the right choice. Beautiful. She explains she’s not going to take it, not today, because life is still too good. She thanks everyone for supporting her decision to choose. She has bulbar onset ALS and while she’s lost the ability to swallow anything, she can still speak; which is good, she says, because she has a lot to say. She puts the bottle on the table, and she tells her viewers how much she loves them all.

She glances at the prescription bottle on the table, almost lovingly, and faces the camera. Her warm smile brightens her face again, she is serene. “It’s a good life,” she says. “Live it.”


Assisted suicide. Death with Dignity. Voluntary Euthanasia. It’s an extraordinarily controversial topic. It’s something I’ve had strong opinions on ever since I heard of Dr. Kevorkian. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot since ALS became a possibility for me, and it’s been on my mind almost every day lately thanks to Brittany Maynard.

If you’re not familiar, congratulations, you’re probably one of the five people who’ve escaped this story. You can read it here. The short version is, she was diagnosed at 29 with terminal brain cancer, was told she had months to live and an excruciating death waiting for her. So she chose to end her life under her own terms. She openly talked about how she would do it, and knew exactly when. November 1st, she took her medication and died.

It’s polarized the world it seems. Everyone has an opinion. She had the right, she did not. She was choosing to die with grace, she was a coward committing suicide. She was strong and brave, she was thwarting God’s plan for her. Opinions were very strong, debates were very heated, and theoretical relatives were killed daily in debate, by agonized suffering or suicide, and everyone thinks they know what is best. And everyone – EVERYONE – had something to say about it.

And maybe some day someone close to you will need to decide on this option. Maybe an aunt with cancer. A father who gets into a terrible accident with injuries incompatible with life. Or God help them, someone with ALS. If they live in a select handful of places, they will have this option to choose. They will have this conversation several times with a medical professional. And if they choose to die, they will pay an obscene amount of money for a prescription to die, because it is OH MY GOD EXPENSIVE and insurance will not cover it. (Which is stupid, really, you’d think the insurance company would pay YOU to stop costing them so much.) But they get the prescription, and maybe they take it, maybe they don’t. Whatever side of the fence you’re on, whatever opinion you have on the subject, allow me to make one thing abundantly clear for you.


Absolutely NONE.

There is no debate. You get to sit the fuck down and shut your face when that person makes that decision. If they ask you how you feel, fine, but know that you do not get ANY fucking say in what they decide. You can have all the arguments in your head that you want. But if someone makes the choice to die, and their doctor agrees? Then it’s done. You have no right to interfere with it. At all. Keep your opinions. Honor their decision. If you disagree, fine, but know that it makes LITERALLY NO DIFFERENCE.

Comfort them in their last hours, support them until their final days, and keep your goddamned opinions to yourself.


I was 24 when Jack Kevorkian came into the public’s eye, when he was arrested and then later sentenced for murder because he’d helped terminally ill people to die. “Voluntary euthanasia” they called it then, in all of the court reports and news articles. Now it’s more bluntly called “assisted suicide”. They mean the same thing, but ‘assisted suicide’ has more of an accusatory feel to it and so that’s what people call it now – because Society Does Not Approve.

“It goes against God’s plan,” is the most used argument against it. “This happened for a reason and you are giving up.”

“It’s Death with Dignity,” is the most used argument for it. “It’s a humane close to an inevitable ending.”

And even then, as these two sides yelled at each other and called each other “murderer” and “sadist”, my 24 year old self thought about it with a calm heart and careful deliberation. “If I were ever in great pain and going to die eventually,” I decided, “I would want to kill myself. I think people should have the right to die on their own terms.”

And my 38 year old self thought about it with the same calm and deliberation. “If this turns out to be ALS,” I decided, “I want that option available to me.”

And my ten-days-away-from-being-39 year old self stared at the carpet for a moment, letting the diagnosis wash over me, and I thought about it with calm and deliberation. ” I’m really, really happy that I live in a state where it’s legal. I need to figure out what is my breaking point so that I can get the process started before it’s too late.”


Spoiler Alert: I’m going to get that prescription. I am very probably going to take it.

And you know what? There’s not a MOTHERFUCKING THING you get to say to me about it. This is MY choice. This is a step *I* will take if I want to. I know what’s best for me. I know how much I can handle. You don’t. And you don’t get to dictate to me when I can die.

I already know how my story ends. I’ve seen the last chapter, and it’s terrible. I want to be able to close the book before it gets that far. It’s a shitty close to a pretty good story, otherwise. “Died happily, surrounded by loved ones” is a much more kickass end chapter than “died slowly, suffocating and starving, languishing in agony at not being able to interact with those she loves while watching them steadily stop coming by and trying to talk to her because it was sad and awkward”.

You DO have the right to think and feel anything that comes your way. Even if it’s the bullshit idea that “this is God’s plan” which I will NEVER, EVER ACCEPT. If it’s in God’s plan that I should die like this, then God is a jerk. I don’t believe God hates me this much; I just believe that shit happens. And this sucks. And it’s no one’s fault. And that’s okay. There doesn’t need to be a plan or a reason for this. But if you feel there’s some proper reason for this, that’s fine.

I would never dictate to you how you should feel. It’s not my right, and not my place. Your opinions and your feelings are as important to you as mine are to me. Even if you disagree with me, it is entirely your right. I might debate you on logic, but I can’t and I won’t debate you on feelings. I respect your right to disagree with my choice, but that does not give you the right to interfere with it.

I would never presume to tell you how to feel, because I can’t know. But I will tell you not to presume to know, because you can’t feel.

You’re even welcome to share your thoughts and feelings with me. Just know that it’s going to make absolutely NO fucking impact on my choice.

I don’t know what my breaking point will be. It sort of shifts around, some days I think I can live with things that I can’t fathom, other days. And it may well turn out that I don’t think it’s really all that bad, even at the end. It’s amazing what you can get used to, if the change is gradual. I may think that spending my entire life having ten minute conversations that consist of three words is okay, that being an active brain in a meat shell completely at the mercy of everyone around me is a perfectly decent way to live.

I currently think I probably want to die before it gets that far. The last thing I want to leave is an impression of being a burden. Even if it’s not true, I know that I will start to feel like people are resenting me for being useless, that they’re tired of me taking so fucking long to get anything across with my stupid little eyegaze tablet. Even if I know it’s not true – and I do, I know that I’m loved and people would happily shoulder me for as long as I need them to – I know I will feel that way. Because I know me better than anyone. And that might be harder to bear than the humiliation of having my diapers changed. That WILL be harder to bear.

Some days I think that my mind is active enough, I’m solitary enough, that I’d probably be okay to be so isolated, as long as I have a sliver of communication.

Some days I think, when I’m no longer able to eat.

Some days I think, when I can no longer breathe on my own.

Some days I don’t think about it at all.

I just know that I need to do it, if I’m going to, before I’m no longer able to do it on my own. You have to do it yourself. And even if it’s someone putting the meds in a feeding tube and putting your hand over the syringe so the weight of your hand pushes the meds into your stomach, it has to be you. Which is right and proper, because I could never ever ask someone, “Will you help kill me?” Even if I have people who love me enough to be willing to go that far to help, I would never ever ask someone to carry that burden. It has to be under my own power.

And it could very well be that I’ll get that prescription and never use it. I’ve been told that many more people get it than use it. And that’s okay. But I want the choice to be mine. And I want that option. I want that right, and that power. That decision belongs to me.

And when I die, be it by time or by chemical, you guys can do whatever you want to celebrate or mourn me; throw a party, get drunk, burn my sticker collection. My funeral will be for you – but my death is all about ME. You can decide to celebrate or curse me however you like when I’m gone, it makes no difference because I’ll be absent. And you can celebrate or curse my choice, and it makes no difference, because you’ll be absent. It’s the last and most intimate experience anyone ever has on this earth, and it’s personal and private. Sacred. No one can encroach on that space. No one should ever think they somehow get the right to think they can tell me how to die.

You only get to decide for yourself whether you take my decision on death with dignity.