Twenty-nine year old Brittany Maynard’s story is heart-rending on several levels.
Shortly after her marriage she learned she had terminal brain cancer. Doctors were forthright in their prognosis that she would have about six months to live and that her final days before death would likely be agonizing.
Oregon law permits a person with a terminal illness to choose “death with dignity.” Brittany and her husband moved their residence to Oregon so she could take her own life legally.
Most of the public and most of the press praise her “courageous choice” of euthanasia. She’s not so much “committing suicide” or “taking her own life,” but choosing to “die with dignity.”
Unless Brittany’s condition temporarily improves and she chooses to delay her death, Saturday, November 1 is the day she has scheduled to die.
On September 26 of this year, thirteen year old Ethan Hallmark of Midlothian, Texas succumbed to an aggressive form of pediatric cancer known as Neuroblastoma.
Somehow in the midst of his own suffering and imminent death, Ethan found joy and hope in life.
Ethan’s mother, Rachel, wrote in a recent blog post that her son “knew suffering was as much a part of life as happiness was.”
“Suffering exists all over this world in far greater forms than cancer,” wrote Rachel. “Taking a pill to give yourself an early demise isn’t the solution whether you are facing cancer, poverty, warfare, abuse, or any of the endless other forms of suffering. With fearless bravery, he accepted that life wasn’t always easy, that sometimes we have to face giants we’d prefer not to.”
In a column on CNN.com, Brittany Maynard wrote,
“My question is, Who thinks they have the right to tell me that I don’t deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain?”
In an article in People, Brittany says it’s easier to bear the pain now that she knows she is in control.
Ethan Hallmark’s perspective was quite different from Brittany’s.
“Obviously I want to beat this disease but I’m not going to be that sad if I don’t,” said Ethan. “Of course I don’t want to die. Who does? But it’s not really my plan … even though my cancer’s been a lot of bad stuff, it’s been a lot of good stuff, too. I met friends I would have never met. I’ve grown closer to God; my family has.”
While Ethan’s story and unconventional perspective on suffering and death has not captured the attention of the mainstream media like Brittany Maynard’s, his life and death has transformed a community in Texas and beyond.
In May 2014, “I Am Second,” a ministry of the mission organization e3 Partners Ministries, noticed Ethan’s courage and faith in the face of difficulty and began documenting his story for a film released today titled “Many are the Wonders, The Second Story of Ethan Hallmark.”
“You have these moments where you ask God, ‘Why? Why my son? How can a loving and omnipotent God allow a kid who is nine years old to go through this suffering?’” said Ethan’s dad, Matt. “God answered me in that moment. It was a moment that was crystal clear.”
Brittany and Ethan represent the two ways, the only two ways, we all will approach suffering and death. We can choose to shorten our suffering by taking our death in our own hands, or we can entrust our life, suffering, and death into the hands of a faithful Creator God. This God loves us and desires to redeem us and our suffering through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for our sins on the cross.
“Many are the Wonders,” the 44-minute documentary about Ethan Hallmark, is available to watch today at http://www.iamsecond.com/seconds/ethan-hallmark/.
Do yourself a favor and tune in.