I wish to thank Josephine Johnson and the Journal for their fair treatment of Betty and Reg Dawson's end-of-life story. Talking with Josephine about our experience gave Dominic and me time for reflection, and some closure.
Betty and Reg were special people: clever, humble, polite, reserved, dignified, kind and generous. The saying "we die and give birth as we live" seems to fit their experience.
As someone who works in the Humboldt birthing community, I see that just as it is with birth, the way we die matters. The choices we make as we prepare to give birth and as we prepare to die affect us emotionally, physically and spiritually. And our choices affect those around us. Reg and Betty Dawson gave tremendous thought and care in creating their final passage, an end that was dignified and ended years of suffering. It is one of the most powerful experiences of my life to have witnessed such brilliant clarity amidst such suffering. After watching my dear grandmother suffer with Alzheimer's for over two years, it gave me comfort to be close to Reg and Betty who died intentionally, with distinction and grace, and in the presence of their loved ones.
The Dignitas staff present at their deaths deserve mention. These two women were in essence midwives for Reg and Betty's final passage. They were there to comfort, to answer questions and to create a sacred and safe space for their final breaths. They never hurried Betty or Reg in their process. They shouldered a heavy weight that day, midwifing the death processes of not one but two human beings, and they did so with immense professional compassion, and a rare capacity for patience. In our constantly moving lives, it is important that birth and death be given the time and attention they need.
— Tina George, Arcata