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What Brittany Maynard's fight to die taught us

Rebecca Bracken is a news and views writer.






Brittany Maynard fought to die with dignity and won

On Saturday, Brittany Maynard reportedly ended her life before the terminal brain cancer she was diagnosed with last spring could take anything else from her. She was only 29 years old.

Just before presumably swallowing a fatal dose of barbiturates, as was her plan under Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, she posted one last heartfelt Facebook message.

"Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love," Brittany wrote. "Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more," she wrote on Facebook. "The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type … Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!"

Although her life was heartbreakingly short, Brittany touched so many people with her story and her fight. But Brittany's legacy is one of strength, courage and grace. Here's what we all can learn from Brittany's example.

You are stronger than you think you are

In interviews, Brittany said she didn't come to the decision to end her life easily. But as she was faced with the undeniable reality that her malignant brain tumor would not just kill her but that her death would be horrible and filled with suffering, she showed the kind of strength most of us can't even fathom. She, with her husband and parents, moved to Oregon, where the law would allow her to take her own life at the time of her choosing. She worried about how her death would impact her loved ones. She told them her hopes and dreams for their lives and was strong for them too. She even left carefully wrapped Christmas and birthday gifts for them so they would know how desperately she wanted to be there with them in their times of joy.

Stick to your guns no matter what

Brittany asked her mother and husband to continue her fight after she died, to pass a Death with Dignity Act in every state in the U.S.

"I want to work on the cause," Brittany's mother, Debbie Ziegler, told People magazine. "I have so much admiration for people who are terminally ill and just fight and fight. They are so dignified and brave. This is a different choice, but it is also brave and dignified."

Today matters

Although her health was rapidly failing, over the past few weeks, Brittany used what little time she had left to see the world. She traveled to Alaska, British Columbia and Yellowstone National Park. She even took a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, something she wanted to see before she died.

Put good energy into the world

Brittany touched so many people with the grace she was able to demonstrate even under the most horrific circumstances. She was a beautiful young woman who should have been having babies and laughing with her husband instead of fighting for her right — and everyone else's right — to die with dignity. She said goodbye, and she realized many of her dreams and helped us all see how achingly beautiful life — and death — can be.

Online, people from all over the world are posting their memorials to Brittany to thank her for sharing her story and for using her pain to help others. May she now rest in peace.

"A Song for You, Brittany Maynard"

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