I am inspired by the ever-growing network of Maine’s death-conscious citizens. Whether it’s downsizing and getting one’s affairs in order, handling our own dead, Death Cafe discussions on every mortality topic under the sun, funeral consumer advocacy, or enthusiastic activism in politics, Maine’s mortality-friendly grass roots are spreading faster than dandelions or Creeping Charlie.
Maine Death with Dignity Advocate Dies
Rebecca Vanwormer was an avid supporter of the 2015 Maine Death with Dignity bill, LD1270. She was a community activist in other ways, too; she brought Christmas back to Millinocket just before she died. Her family and community lost a wonderful human being yesterday.
I felt privileged to meet and spend time with Becky in June. She asked me to record her
testimony. That’s a powerful thing when someone literally hands you the end of their life, wanting you to put it on tape. She inspired me with her courage and raw honesty. She wanted Maine lawmakers to understand that having a safe-guarded end-of-life option like Death with Dignity is really important, because dying is a personal, private process. You know, sharing a personal story like that takes guts. Sharing it publicly take a LOT of guts.
It’s been quite difficult for all of us to see her like this
I can’t begin to imagine her experience. I received an email from Ken, Becky’s husband, a couple of days ago to let me know she was “declining rapidly.” He wrote:
“She has had family and friends visiting her, although I’m not sure how much she knows as to what’s happening, and it’s been quite difficult for all of us to see her like this. She’s still been able to say hi and wave and occasionally say I love you and good-bye.”
“It’s been absolutely heart-breaking to see her go from this strong, beautiful, energetic, vibrant woman with her beautiful voice and amazing smile to just a shell of her former self in days, going through all the very things she feared most from the cancer that has taken over her body. Not being able to communicate her needs, to be totally helpless and have to have myself, her mom, and the hospice nurses wash her and change her, to be bed ridden, to have her skin feel like it’s on fire and itchy all over.”
“All the things she wanted to prevent if only Maine’s legislature had passed the aid-in-dying law. I hope her story will help convince more lawmakers to change their minds and pass this law so others with similar situations don’t have to suffer, both the dying and their loved ones.”
I’m so sorry, Ken. I know Becky felt that her life and death would have greater meaning if the video helped others, especially our Maine lawmakers, understand more about aid-in-dying. I’m sharing her testimony and her story, because people need to hear that. I want people to know she understood that she was going to die, and she met that with a palpable sense of grace and acceptance.
IMD will continue educating in Maine to pass a safe law. Rest in peace, Becky.
Click here for Becky’s Christmas Story: East Millinocket woman loses to cancer at 43