People sometimes lament about the impersonal nature of social media. Some feel they don’t connect with their friends and family on a “real” level as much as they used to, we’re all too plugged into our personal electronic devices instead of interacting with those around us. Watching my fellow bus riders stare at their screens on the way into work this morning, I can understand this sentiment, but also I’ve found through my work with Death with Dignity National Center I often feel connected to complete strangers because of social media.
Just last week, I had the honor of working with a woman to create a visual way to share her dying friend’s final wish to spread the word about Death with Dignity laws. Jeanette caught a Facebook post by her friend’s husband, Carl, which stated his wife, Martha “says I need to spread the word. What better way than Facebook. She wants to know why, when a person is terminal, they are made to suffer through it instead of being able to go with dignity? Something is wrong with the laws of our country to allow a person to suffer like this.”
With Jeanette’s help, and Carl’s permission, I created and shared an image with Martha and her family accompanied by Martha’s question. The graphic struck a chord with our community. In a very short time, it prompted several people to comment, over 100 people liked the image, it was shared 70 times, and it reached over 4,000 Facebook users. Two days after sharing the image, I learned from Jeanette Martha had died.
Over those two days, I had several public and private exchanges with Jeanette and Carl on Facebook. Our conversations more closely resembled ones I’ve had with people I’ve known for years; they were easy flowing and heartfelt. I’m honored to have been part of their lives because of Martha’s request for advocacy, and I’m amazed by how outspoken Martha and Carl were about the Death with Dignity laws we promote during such a difficult time.
Supporters of our work are incredibly generous and selfless. Many are drawn to our cause because their dying loved ones asked them to support Death with Dignity laws and to make sure others in their state have the right to decide what’s best for themselves in their final days. People like Martha know these laws won’t change their own deaths, but they want people in the future to have more end-of-life options than they do.
It’s a privilege to meet and know supporters like Martha, Carl, and Jeanette. Their strength inspires me to do what I can everyday to make sure Martha’s wish comes true in every state.
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