I never knew Gillian Bennett, but I have cried buckets the past two weeks thinking about her life and mostly her death and the love that surrounded her death.
I don’t feel sorry for her or her family, don’t get me wrong; I am sorry for their loss but I admire and, yes, envy what she had.
For those of you who don’t know who Gillian Bennett is, she chose to take her own life after being diagnosed with Dementia.
You can read her story at http://www.deadatnoon.com
i am sorry for anyone that gets Dementia, I watched both my grandmothers slowly slip away mentally, it is a painful process for the person afflicted but even more so for the family that loves them. Gillian did not want her family to go through that; she wanted to die with dignity and her family loved her enough to respect and honor her wishes.
I am not saying everyone with Dementia should kill themselves, I am saying I can totally understand why she did it and I agree with her decision. I listened today to CBC radio interview her son and husband of 57 years. The love in their voices is so evident. I have sobbed every time I listen to them being interviewed or read their story and to be honest I don’t know if I am crying for their loss or because I am feeling sorry for myself.
Isn’t THAT insane? to envy a woman who chose to kill herself because she had dementia?
When I read about her life, (she wrote a 4 page letter that her son posted after her death at her request) I can’t help but admire the life she led. She raised two children who love her dearly, was married 57 years to a man she loved dearly and who loved her just as much. They lived in various countries and retired to Bowen Island off the coast of Vancouver in 1996. She was a stay at home mom who went back to school to become a psychologist because she wanted to have a career to sustain her in case her husband died before her.
When the time came she called her two children and asked them to come for the weekend because on Monday she would be dead by noon. This didn’t come as a surprise to her children because she had discussed it often throughout the years, she had made it very clear she did not want to be a burden to anyone or to slowly become incapacitated. She had no fear of dying but to be a shell of the person she once was did scare her.
Her children came to their parents home on Bowen and spent the weekend walking and talking, saying their final goodbyes knowing the next day their mom would die. On the Monday she woke up with her husband, they had their usual breakfast and went for a walk to her favorite cliff and then they went back to the house and she dragged a foam mattress out to the place she had chosen to die. (she didn’t want her husband to help because she didn’t want him to assist her in anyway)
She had a mild whiskey that she drank after taking whatever the barbiturate was that would kill her; her husband held her hand and she went to sleep. Within 3 minutes she was asleep and within 1/2 an hour there was no sign of life.
I think about the love her and her husband shared, how hard it must have been for him but he loved her enough to be there and hold her hand, to help her die the way she wanted to die. They had 57 years of love and raised a family together with mutual respect and love.
That is what love is all about.
By contrast, what James and I had was a pitiful joke. He encouraged me to kill myself and left me to die alone, and had I not been as good a driver as I was he would have been responsible for my death. When I look back I am embarrassed that I ever considered what he and I had to be love. Not everyone has a love like Gillian and her husband, but to me it is the ultimate, it is what every couple should aspire to.
An excerpt from the CBC article and Gillian’s blog:
“Bennett told her family of her plans but did not allow them to take part. It is a crime in Canada to assist in a suicide.
In her final hours, she wouldn’t allow her husband to drag a mattress to the spot she had chosen to die, worried even that could cause him trouble.
“That pretty much broke his heart, that he couldn’t help her with that. She was pretty frail herself,” Fox said. (Gillian’s daughter)
In her letter, Bennett lamented the law.
“This is all much tougher than it need be on Jonathan, and I wish he did not have to be alone with his wife’s corpse,” she wrote.
“Today, now, I go cheerfully and so thankfully into that good night. Jonathan, the courageous, the faithful, the true and the gentle, surrounds me with company. I need no more.”
“Each of us is born uniquely and dies uniquely. I think of dying as a final adventure with a predictably abrupt end. I know when it’s time to leave and I do not find it scary.”