A powerful excerpt from Liana Brittain's new book

As an active Dying With Dignity Canada volunteer, regular contributor to our blog, and chair of our First Person Witness Council, Liana Brittain has moved people across the world with her powerful storytelling and voice. She has gone above and beyond to keep her final promise to her husband, Paul, who had an assisted death in 2017 and asked her to share the story of his choice.

Liana continues to honour Paul’s request by sharing the story of their love, his terminal cancer diagnosis, and finally, his journey with assisted dying in her new book, MAiD Musings: A Widow’s Reflections. She has generously shared an excerpt from her book, which consists of short vignettes from her life with Paul and her original poetry, on our blog. Read the emotional excerpt below!

May 10, 2017

We had arrived at your final destination. Your team was assembled – Dr. Matt Kutcher was your medical assistance in dying (MAID) provider, Susan Doucette, who had been your dedicated palliative care nurse throughout this final stage of your journey, would assist, and I would be your witness – the one to tell your story when you were gone. The one to grieve for our lost love. The one who would miss you always. You were so chipper, so excited, so filled with a true appreciation of the gravity of the moment, but at the same time bubbling over with hope and anticipation too. You chatted, so matter-of-factly, saying thank you to your medical team with words that were overflowing with sincerity and gravity.

I saw you laying on the bed, so large with life – the one I loved with all my heart.

It was surreal. I knew when I left that room, I would be alone. But in that moment, you were still here. You were still you. I dared not breathe. I knew that with each breath I took, one more grain of sand plummeted from the hourglass of our journey together into the sands of all eternity.

Paul and Liana on their wedding day on May 10th, 2006.

You kissed me tenderly. I can still feel your lips on mine. Then you were speaking. You held my gaze with the fierce intensity born of the love we shared. You said the words, as silent tears spilled down my cheeks. “I have loved you since the first moment I saw you. I will love you forever plus three days.” The recitation, once again, of our sacred wedding vows said exactly eleven years earlier. We were coming full circle having met, married and parted on the same day - fourteen years of life together. Fourteen amazing, challenging, exciting years. We certainly had packed a lot of life into those five thousand, one hundred and thirteen days together. Each one celebrated with, “Have I told you how much I love you today?”

The doctor asked one last time. You confirmed – yes, you were sure – and then the procedure began. Our eyes locked one last time – mine filled with tears – yours calm and sure. I did as you had asked, “Let your voice be the last thing I hear in this life.” I spoke softly. The words tumbled from my lips as your eyes closed. I kept talking of my love for you, of how wonderful our life together had been. Your breath slowed. I cradled your arm and hand so gently in mine. I stroked you tenderly with every ounce of love that I possessed. I never stopped until your life had truly slipped away. You were now on your great adventure. Your ship had sailed to a place I could not follow. I was left alone on the dock watching as you disappeared from my sight. You journeyed to a destination all your own, to a place I could not yet go. In that moment, I wished with all my heart that I was still by your side. I would have gone so willingly, just to remain with you. Knowing this, my heart shattered into tiny pieces and I knew despair.

 

 

Swaying to the Music

See her step lightly

With pointed toe.

Her steps

Are measured

as each beat

taps out

the melody of life

 

She twirls with grace,

Her poise perfection.

With each pirouette

She glides

In time to the

Sweet refrain of

Her existence

 

See her lift a hand,

Point her fingers

Skyward…

And pause…

To punctuate the movement

Demanded

By the rhythm

Of her journey

 

It is a solo act

But done with

great deliberation…

As if,

It had once been

Performed as a pas de deux.

 

He is her shadow now…

Seen only by herself.

Watch her smile gently

As she turns to

Slide into his embrace…

He lifts her high -

She floats

On the memories of their love

 

She sees you not…

You cannot hear her tune…

For she is dancing

To another beat…

Held fast in that space

That speaks of

The perfection

Of a love sublime.

 

She points her toe

And steps lightly yet again.

The dance goes on.

It is held so tenderly

Within the realms

Of the shadow world,

 

Forever plus three days…

 

They dance in perfect harmony.

 

Forever plus three days.

Liana Brittain provides dual advocacy for chronic pain and medical assistance in dying. She is also the architect of the Living in Pain Successfully program. She has written about her chronic pain in her book, A Gentle Warrior. She recently released MAiD Musings: A Widow's Reflections, a collection of poems and short stories about her love story with Paul, his choice of MAID, and her subsequent grief.


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