Gill Pharaoh recently died. Some of you may be shrugging your shoulders or heading off to google her name. Others of you will have passed a judgment on her either good or bad. To me, until Gill passed away I had no clue who she was.
Gill’s passing has left me in a turmoil, something I hadn’t expected to feel and not just because until recently I had no clue she existed. Perhaps Gill’s action stir something deeply buried within myself. Perhaps she has made me feel a rage I didn’t acknowledge because I thought just maybe this was something only for a select few and she wasn’t part of the few. Mostly I am in turmoil, uselessly treading water in the shallow end because Gill has pointed out I am a hypocrite and I’d rather have not had to confront that.
In case you haven’t googled Gill, let me tell you a bit about her. She was a vibrant lady who lived life on her terms as best she could. She had always said she didn’t want to be a burden on friends, family and society. She decided that living past fifty was not worth it, but as she got older she bumped that up to sixty. With seventy approaching she had decided that really that was the shelf life of most people. She had been in good health, but had suffered a bout of shingles, which seemed to suck her energy making things she enjoyed no longer things she enjoyed.
Gill has been a nurse and been through caring for a loved with health issues. She had researched ending her life on her terms years before she ended up going to Switzerland and ending her life.
And here is why Gill creates turmoil in my life. I’m have always been supportive of dying with dignity when a person has a terminal illness or a chronic illness that will rob them of their identity or quality of life. You see when you have a chronic illness or a terminal illness so much is out of your control and let’s face it, they rob you of emir dignity so why not allow people control over this final portion of their lives? Now Gill didn’t have a terminal illness, she did have a condition that impacted her quality of life however. So why does her decision confuse me? What gives me the right to pass judgment on whether she should have this right or not?
Although I never knew Gill in life, I am grateful for the lesson and message she provides me now. She has challenged me to reconsider why there should be limits on those who can die with dignity? She demands that I afford her the same comforts in death as I so openly accept for those who have terminal or chronic illnesses. She insists I listen to her and admit I don’t know how her condition impacted her life. She demands I acknowledge that she didn’t make a rash decision, that she was informed and aware of what she was doing. And most of all she pleads that her decision be respected in a dignified manner.