Beth O’Rourke, a 44-year-old wife and mother from Massachusetts, died after a long battle with cancer. While this is sadly not an uncommon story, what she chose to leave behind is — she wrote an obituary for herself.
While you might think writing your own obituary would be depressing and morbid, this amazing woman made it an exercise in expressing her love, joy and faith in life and her family. As a nurse, she had a difficult time being a “care receiver” as she calls it. However, she understood the kind of courage and strength it takes to be a care giver and repeatedly thanks those who did that for her, as she did for so many others.
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As a triathlon and marathon runner, Beth had an unflagging strength and will to keep going. She was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer that affects the bile ducts, and fought it relentlessly for seven years. While it ended up taking her life, she knows she was “a survivor” through it all. She also recognized how important her family was to her happiness, and her farewell to them is one of the most touching things I’ve ever read. You probably want tissues handy for this.
“Of all the things I did in this life, nothing compared to being with Brendan and our children. I fought every day to stay alive and to be with them. No person could ever ask for a more loving and supportive husband, always my champion, always. I enjoyed every moment we shared; the great ones, the sad ones, the easy and the hard. I pray they have learned to feel the deep sense of faith that I shared. No matter where this journey brings me next, I will forever carry their love with me, as I am sure there is a piece of me that will forever remain with them.”
She very adamantly declares how much she loved her life, and all the little wonderful details that were a part of it. Beth’s large family originated in Ireland, and thus a big part of who she turned out to be was wrapped up in that heritage.
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The hardest (and perhaps most beautiful) part to read is her incredibly insightful and accurate description of what cancer does to families. She recognizes how it hurts indiscriminately but declares that doesn’t mean that it wins.
“…In the end is when the most amazing thing happens, cancer loses its strength and grace appears. We need to see it. We accept it, and go with it. Grace and love win, not cancer.”
You can read Beth’s entire obituary on the Heald & Chiampa funeral home’s website. The family also set up a GoFundMe page titled, “A Story About Love” where you can donate to her children’s educations. If you have a moment today, drink a pint for Beth, and take a moment to send good thoughts to her family who lost a wonderful and truly inspiring woman.
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