The courage to share your story

Personal Stories | June 7, 2024 | Dying With Dignity Canada

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A photo of Brian and Sari in a park

We spoke with Sari Oliveira — widow of Brian Oliveira, from the documentary, “In My Own Time” — about Brian’s courageous decision to share his story and decision to access MAID. You can watch the film for free on YouTube below.

You and Brian made the very courageous decision to share your story in a documentary about MAID. What was your first reaction when you were approached by the filmmakers?

As Brian’s caregiver, voice, and biggest advocate, my first reaction when Blair and Sandy approached us about being part of the documentary was, “Finally, we’re being heard.” Brian’s story was two-pronged: there was our advocacy for treatment for Ataxia, and his decision to end his suffering through MAID. I think the documentary helped educate the general public on both.

What ultimately motivated you both to share your story and Brian’s personal choice to access MAID publicly?

Brian’s disease is so unique, so this was an opportunity to educate people about Ataxia, and about assisted dying. Both are still very much misunderstood or not known about at all.

What did it mean to Brian, and to you, for him to be found eligible for MAID?

It was Brian who researched and brought up the subject of MAID. I didn’t even know about it. When he was found eligible, it changed his whole perspective and gave him hope. He had been told that there was nothing left to do. That meant he had to let the disease run its course and suffer. His mother had recently died of Ataxia, so he knew what to expect. This gave him an option, and he became a different person. For me, at first, it was the complete opposite. It made me angry and sad. As a caregiver, I had so much going on and I didn’t have time to process what this meant for him. Once he started going through the assessment process, I stepped back and asked myself what I would do in his shoes. In the end, I was just happy that he had a choice.

For many people who have seen the documentary, what stood out about your story was the community you were surrounded by, and how they rallied together and supported Brian’s choice to access MAID. Can you tell me about that community and how you felt supported during the experience, and still today?

There were a few people who did not support Brian’s choice but that was mostly due to a lack of understanding. There was more support than not. Brian could light up a room with his smile and energy, so when people saw his decline, I think they began to understand. Brian’s family has been a great support throughout.

Have you received any messages of support or feedback from people who have seen the film? If so, what have those messages been like?

I have received an incredible amount of positive feedback. I have heard that it was educational, raw, real, touching, and a must-see for everyone. One woman said she brought her daughter to the premiere, and it helped them talk about end-of-life choice. I get the impression it changed people’s skepticism about assisted dying.

What has life been like for you since Brian accessed MAID? Is there anything you want people to know about your experience?

No one really prepares you for life after MAID. There is a lot of information shared about the actual MAID process, but it does not change the grief we experience. I promised Brian that I would continue to advocate and educate people about his condition and his decision to have an assisted death. I am glad he had a choice but, of course, I miss him. I was so lucky to have him in my life.

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