I’ve always loved the song, My Grown-Up Christmas List, by Amy Grant. Its lyrics have always spoken to the deepest part of my heart. The words are even more meaningful because my Brittany is no longer physically here on earth, with me, to celebrate the holiday she so loved. I’ve learned as the song says, that love never ends.
“No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And every one would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list.”
During the Christmas season, as she was growing up, I taught Brittany to share with others. We bought gifts for those less fortunate. We shared meals with friends that needed a place to go for the holidays. We donated food, time and money to shelters. Brittany grew up to be a young woman who spread love and kindness. She brightened everyone’s Christmas.
At the same time, she and I could get caught up in the buying and “wanting” that comes along with the holiday season. I loved to surprise her with the newest doll, toy, or coveted jeans or jacket as she was growing up. And, I always had a few items that were on my “wish” list. Somehow, Brittany always surprised me with a gift that warmed my heart. Our last Christmas together, only days before her diagnosis, I bought her a ride in an open-air vintage airplane flight over beautiful Sonoma. We laughed because she purchased Gary and me a boat ride on a sailboat in San Diego Bay. We knew each other so well. “Great minds think alike, Momma!” she said. Brittany never took that ride in the open-air biplane. Her brain tumor diagnosis interfered with those plans but we did have a wonderful sail on the bay.
Well, heaven only knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal
A hurting human soul.
With the loss of Brittany, my Christmas wishes changed. My wishes revolve around honoring Brittany’s life and death. Life experiences have given me a new focus. Losing my only child has brought me to a place of understanding. It has made me much more aware of things that we, as a society, fail to plan or discuss. So, my wish list this year stems from the fact that, we can’t be certain of when we will die or how we will die. But, we can be certain that we all will die.
Because of that, we must open up the discussion and share with one another. Brittany believed that discussing how we feel about end of life medical procedures, would give us a deeper understanding of our mortality. At the same time, it would encourage us to appreciate and look for wild and precious moments in every single day of our lives. Although, she is widely known for how she died, she spoke and took pride in the way she lived her short life. Brittany didn’t want her death to be the only thing people knew of her, she really wanted to be known for her beautiful bold life. The subject of a good life and a good death are often spoken of together. It is natural, as part of the planning and accepting, to focus on what we’d like to do while we are here.
In Honor of Brittany, My Christmas Wishes are :
- You will seriously consider opening the discussion of death and dying with your loved ones. Perhaps you could encourage your family to gently start this conversation. On New Year’s Day toast your bravery and foresight in discussing good living and what Britt and I called “as good as it gets” dying. I am hopeful that opening our holiday hearts and our New Year’s resolutions to this topic, will result in short-term and long-term plans that allow us to face the end of life with less fear. I am very grateful that Brittany was honest and open about her needs and clear about what she felt was a basic human right, as a terminally ill patient. All too often, those discussions are avoided and don’t take place. That needs to change.
- One way to get the conversation started is by reading and sharing, Wild and Precious Life. I urge you to introduce it to your book clubs, read it, discuss it, and encourage others to open their hearts and minds. Brittany wanted to change the laws in America for all terminally ill patients. Please, keep her story alive. Please continue to share her name, her story, her struggles, her advocacy…her legacy. Opening this conversation, courageously leading the way, was Brittany’ Christmas and New Year’s gift to the world.
- Finally, for those of you that took the time to read the book, I ask that you take a moment to write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes and Noble. I’m naturally shy about asking this of you; but, a higher number of thoughtful reviews and ratings, increases the likelihood that Brittany’s message will reach more people. For the love of Brittany, in honor of my daughter’s bravery and selflessness, I ask that we all continue sharing her journey. We can be the change.
I know this isn’t a typical wish list. But, what better time to broach this subject than when we are closing one year and starting another? A good death, an ” as good as it gets death”, is defined very differently from person to person. You may be very surprised by your loved ones definition.
Now, this year, give your family the gift of speaking honestly and openly, and allowing them to speak without judgement or interruption about their thoughts on this topic. Make sure you ask what their dreams are. If you are comfortable, make a
“bucket list” for the new year. Brittany had a list. She took great delight in crossing things off her list. Even in the very end. There was a sense of accomplishment and pride in how she was living. She wanted us all to define what we thought was a wild and precious life and live it!
Hug your loved ones extra tight,