Quality of Death

Someone told me once that we live in grey but our ideas are usually black and white. I find that statement interesting. Facing my death is changing the way I look at my life. My ideas are no longer black and white. I’m moving into the world of the unknown. Its like standing on a cliff and looking out towards the vast horizon and not knowing what lies beneath. Despite not knowing, I still believe that something exists .

Lately I’ve been trying to get a hold of what it means to die.  How can I accept the unknown?How can I face my death empowered with grace and love?  In the metastatic cancer community we spend lots of time talking about patients having a good quality of life. This discussion needs to extend into the realm of death.

We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about what a good quality of death is while balancing a good quality of life. I believe a good quality of life relates more to the application of medical intervention or lack of medical intervention. For me, a good quality of death relates to the amount of grace and love that surrounds me. I am hopeful, it will fuel empowerment and strength as I face my death. I want to find grace and love in myself and the people sharing this journey with me.

Another key element of feeling empowered is centered around remaining an active member in my medical team. Knowing that as long as I’m capable, I will be able to make decisions about my care. Knowing that my care will be conducted with dignity. To be treated as a human being rather than just a patient. Most importantly I want to be without pain.

I want to be able to die surrounded by the intimacy that comes from loved ones. I want to know that my supporters are being supported. I want my life to have a legacy for my children, family, and friends. I want my life story to reflect what made me, me. I want my children to know that I am loved and have loved.

For me the unknown has an infinite feeling without answers. How do I find acceptance in the potentially short time I have? How do I find the grace to accept that my life will be left incomplete? How will I find that grace in a holistic way? How will I ever be able to step off that cliff knowing that I am leaving my family and loved ones? It all feels grey. I am left with more questions than answers right now.

11 replies »

  1. Anna

    I have followed your journey with an admiration of how you specifically and also Ian are approaching the path you are on. Your latest entry takes me back to the times with Jane as we knew the game was not going our way.

    I admire your willingness to ask the difficult questions and to ask how will I be remembered by your kids and your many admirers. Having been there I have some thoughts for Ian and you. Your kids will not understand for some time what interrupted there lives. Be assured that their love for you and more importantly your love for them will be a constant in their lives. Ian will reinforce those thoughts daily.

    In the years to come your kids will grow and flourish in the knowledge of how much you loved them and how you helped shape their world. I have seen in my own family and it will be the same in yours. Ian will ensure that.

    Tom E

  2. Anna, thanks for sharing your journey with us. We’ve never met before so I’m a bit apprehensive about intruding into your story but your questions and honesty are compelling. If you don’t mind me asking a question or two, I’m curious. You vividly describe death as an unknown but you wrote, “Despite not knowing, I still believe that something exists”. What is your understanding about what happens after death or as it’s often put, life after death? Do you have a spiritual path or story that offers you an answer to that question? If my questions seem too intrusive please feel free to disregard. My thoughts and prayers go with you and your family, Anna.

  3. Hey Anna and Ian;

    You have talked about grace, love and dignity as though you haven’t yet realized you have all those things. I have read the posts, watched from afar, your trials and triumphs and I am sure I speak for others; You have grace, love and dignity in hand – it already belongs to you and to Ian and your beautiful kids. Your sharing like you do, brings hope and love to those who read it and I want to thank you for doing so. Thoughts and prayers with you all.

    Laughter and Love


  4. Wow. That is a beautiful piece. So intimate. So explicit.
    You know who you are and where you are today. You share your wonder about what will lie ahead for you as you continue on your journey, a journey you did not choose of expect. You, your lovely children, devoted loving husband Ian.
    I have followed your journey on Twitter and in your blog. You struggle to find meaning, to make sense of this, to find a reason. Yes your situation is so unfair. We accept what you are going through is somehow OK for a 90 year old. We expect 90 year olds to die at some point. Not you. Your life was in front of you, until your illness decided most of your life would be behind you. There is no reason for that. How can there be?

    Anna, I did write a whole lot more but wonder if it is too personal to share in this space. If interested, please DM me on Twitter and I will email it to you. Many more insights as to what you should expect…

  5. thank you for your blog, since death comes to us all eventually it helps us all to see how others face it before us. thanks and good wishes

  6. Thinking of you and wanting to let you know this resonates with me. Just got a bad scan result last night that makes this topic so timely. Thank you for writing and sharing.

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