The bravest act

Personal Stories | February 16, 2024 | Tabi Arsenault

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A photo of Tabi kissing her grandma on the cheek at her 80th birthday

Today I kept busy. I made sure that work kept me occupied because I didn’t want to acknowledge that one of my lifelong heroes had been gone for a whole year already. 
But then as I pondered it more, I realized that this amazing woman that I was lucky enough to call my Grandma deserves for the world to know how she became the bravest person I’ve ever had the honour to know! 
My Grandma was sick for the last few years of her life. She was in pain that was sometimes in control, and other times would completely overtake her ability to function. When she reached a point where her quality of life had diminished so much that she was in constant pain, she made one of the bravest decisions I’ve ever seen someone make. She chose to do something that so many are denied: to pass away peacefully, surrounded by her family and to end her suffering. She elected to utilize the MAID program (medical assistance in dying). 
My grandma was a smart woman, whose mind was still sharp until her last moments. I’ll never forget how when she received approval to move forward with MAID the doctor asked her if she had a timeframe in mind, she booked it as if she was making a bank appointment! There was no hesitation. No wavering. She chose the date and said to him, “I hope to pass in my sleep before then, but if not, I’ll see you Monday morning!” 
I had the honour of sitting with her all day on the day she was given the approval to move forward and ‘schedule’ the ending of her time here on earth. 
There was a lot of silence, as she was lost deep in thought. I would ask her, “What are you thinking about right now?” Her answers would range from telling me where all her tax information was so we could get her final taxes completed (sharp as a tack and always organized), to telling me her wishes for her burial and requesting to wait to hold a gathering until the weather was nicer so no one had to travel in the winter. There were stories shared and questions answered. I got to ask her things about her childhood and her parents and hear the joy and pride in her voice as she told me of how much she loved all of her grandchildren, great grandchildren and how special it was to her that she was lucky enough to be a GREAT GREAT Grandma to our beautiful little Ivy. 
She shared her worries and vulnerability that day. Her biggest fear in choosing to end her suffering was that we would think less of her and that we would feel she had taken the coward’s way out of this world. That stuck with me the most. Her worst fear was that we would have less respect for her because she chose to schedule her death! My mom and I were with her when she shared that. It instantly broke my heart. Her fear was not in dying, but in the lasting memory that her loved ones would have of how she went out of this world. This was the moment that I realized that she was the bravest person I’ve ever met! 

Mom and I made sure she knew that! We emphasized how much we fully supported her and that she would be remembered because of the life she lived and the love she gave to anyone that was lucky enough to be a part of her circle… not because of how she chose to move on from this world. 
Now that a year has passed since this brave, compassionate, amazing woman left us, I’ve come to realize that I DO want people to know her story. I want people to know of the bravery she showed and that she fought until her body could fight no longer. I want people to know that she got to choose and to end life on her terms. 
I miss her every single day. So many times I catch myself wanting to call her just to hear her voice or to make a quick day trip for a quick coffee and to get one of her hugs. But she was one of the lucky ones. Because her mind was still sharp, she was allowed the right to decide. I share this story today, because today I get to be thankful for the advances in our humanity that allowed her to be able to make the toughest decision of her life. 
Today I get to honour her. 

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