Kara Tippetts didn’t choose the day she would die.
On Sunday, March 22, the mother of four passed away, after close to three years of battling breast cancer.
“I feel like I’m a little girl at the party whose dad’s asking her to leave early, and I’m throwing a fit,” said Tippetts, crying a little, about her experience in the trailer for a documentary about her life. “I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to go.”
In October, Tippetts wrote an open letter to Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old with terminal brain cancer who advocated for widespread legalization of physician-assisted suicide in her last weeks before ending her life Nov. 1.
‘My fight is for time and tenderness with my loves. … All our moments are precious gifts’
“Brittany,” wrote Tippetts (emphasis hers),“your life matters, your story matters, and your suffering matters … Brittany, I love you, and I’m sorry you are dying. I am sorry that we are both being asked to walk a road that feels simply impossible to walk.”
In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with the such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths.
On her blog, Mundane Faithfulness, Tippetts chronicled what she did with her last weeks. She wrote about entering hospice care: “My fight is for time and tenderness with my loves. My fight is to embrace the good moments hospice is giving me and loving my people well. It’s important~ these moments. All our moments are precious gifts.”
She talked about her sorrow in switching to a hospital bed earlier in March. “No more rubbing feet in the night, no more stealing pillows from my guy,” wrote Tippetts. She described writing birthday cards for her kids’ future birthdays, and in mid-February, she talked about being able to attend a tea party with her youngest child, Story:
Story drew a beautiful picture of me in Norman, my wheelchair. The teacher asked questions of the children such as what does your mama do when you are at school. Story sweetly answered, my mama goes to doctors to fight her cancer. I cried hot tears and almost never recovered. She also spoke of how I love and snuggle her. I felt so thankful to be present. Her life is so important, and I’m still here present in it.
I have a little secret! I am running away with my boyfriend for a few days. Guess where?!?!?!?!!!!!! I’m going to the ocean to feel small and know something huge is holding me. I’m going to kiss my man and whisper prayers of thanks for each moment I have been given. Would you pray for our travels and time to be rich with memories and caring?
A photo posted by Kara Tippetts (@tippetts) on
Her husband, Jason Tippetts, wrote about her experience in a post published March 13:
Kara has written about the long goodbye, and as much as it is heart-wrenching it is also peaceful. As I write I am watching Kara wrestle to sleep. Her sleep is mixed with moving pillows for comfort, sitting up to relieve pain, taking medication, or trying to communicate with me. But sometimes her sleep is the quietest and most peaceful event of her day. My long goodbye is full of watching and reliving memories of our life together.
I have great memories of us that will last a lifetime, no length of goodbye will take them. I have an us that cannot be lost. And I still get small moments where we are us. But I grieve as I watch her fade. The peace that is in our house is amazing, peace in the midst of tears, peace in the midst of impending loss, but it is peace
I know I will carry these last memories of peace.
There is such dignity here.
Yes, there was messiness. Tippetts was open about the hospital bed, the hospice care. There was leg pain, and there were plenty of tears: “Today the nurse spoke to us about the stages of dying. … Jason and I sat as she explained what is coming and we quietly wept,” wrote Tippetts on March 4.
But dignity is not about the absence of messiness. It isn’t about having the picture-perfect life, or a life controllable.
Over a dozen states have introduced legislation this session that would permit physician-assisted suicide. Many of those initiatives will be described as promoting death with dignity.
But dying with dignity is not dependent on whether you choose the time of your death or not. It isn’t about the exact circumstances of your death.
Tippetts clearly fought as hard as she could to eke out every last moment she could with her husband and children.
That’s not undignified.
That’s brave—and astonishingly, admirably generous.
Interested in helping the Tippetts? The family is asking for donations for the children. Read more details at Kara Tippett’s blog.
This post has been corrected to reflect Tippetts died Sunday, not Saturday.