Should I “die with dignity” now or is there a better option?

I recently joined the ranks of teenage girls across America with my entertainment choice. The film on the screen? Me Before You.

This movie drew the intrigue of both Stephanie and I after numerous people compared our story to that of the film. As it turns out, there are quite a few parallels.

A guy has a vehicle accident resulting in paralysis below the shoulders. A girl arrives on the scene in a professional manner. A friendship develops. They fall in love.

In addition to the plot itself mirroring our own story, we were captivated by the fact that a movie was portraying both logistics and dynamics of our relationship that are not often represented anywhere outside of our own four walls.

We laughed knowingly when the girl spills soup into the guy’s lap while feeding him. The scene where she lathers his face with shaving cream and cautiously shaves his beard is a daily occurrence in our house. We could relate all too well to the part where his wheelchair got stuck in the mud.

However, the love story quickly takes a turn when the man ultimately decides he does not wish to continue living life in a wheelchair and elects to go through with assisted suicide.

After the initial shock of his decision wears off, the girl resolves to support him and even spends his final moments with him as he slips peacefully away. The movie ends with the girl in Paris, looking satisfied as she sips a cappuccino and smiles contentedly.

The insinuation is clear. In regards to the film, author John Stonestreet accurately stated, “Not only is death portrayed as better than living with a disability, but the ultimate act of love, for a person who lives with a disability, is death.”

What type of message is this supposed to send to me, others in my position, or to someone else dealing with a rough patch or dire prognosis? Give up? If life isn’t easy, it isn’t worth living?

Ironically, the marketing for this movie featured the hashtag #LiveBoldy. #DieQuicklyIfLifeGetsHard may have been more appropriate. It also sparked up much controversial conversation about what is considered “Dying with Dignity.”

If this is the dignified thing to do, is choosing to live gratefully in the face of hardship considered the opposite of dignity? Is taking life in stride, no matter what obstacles you come up against, considered disgraceful?

What if instead of looking for a way out, we allowed trials to teach us we are not in control and began to understand that there is a far greater purpose beyond our small little worlds?

We desire to avoid suffering at all costs, as if it has no use for us. The crazy thing is, this is exactly the opposite of what the Bible tells us. God tells us again and again that He will use our suffering for good, and in fact we are to take joy in it (James 1:2).

Amid pain, there remains a promise for those that don’t just throw in the towel. God promises great reward. According to James 1:12, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

Our momentary happiness and comfort is not the point of life. God is more concerned about who we are at the end of our lives. Even if it is uncomfortable, God wants to make us mature and complete.

Are there days when I wonder what the point is and just want to throw my hands up and yell to God that I can’t take this anymore? When I wonder if he’s there or if he’s even listening? Absolutely.

But maybe that’s exactly what I need. To get to the point where I am out of options and can only look to God. Looking ahead to the unknown of a future completely out of my control may be daunting, but the rearview mirror shows time and time again how the hardest times built character, endurance and hope unlike anything else could have.

So while the media may portray suicide as merciful, dignified, and even romantic, I will continue to believe that there is always hope.

Since ending up in this position seven years ago, I’ve gained a new perspective and realized my need for Jesus. I’ve graduated college, interacted with some amazing people, met and married my beautiful wife, and we both believe the best is yet to come.

There is hope in the now, but more importantly, there is a sure hope in the future, which makes the time here on earth that much more critical to use wisely.

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8 thoughts on “Should I “die with dignity” now or is there a better option?

  1. Ryan
    I continue to admire your perseverance as described in James. Thank for sharing your perspective. Diane and I continue to pray for you daily.
    Love to you and Stephanie
    Greg Stevens

  2. Well said Ryan. Thank you for writing. I was very disturbed with this movies content and message. You once again point the way to The One.

  3. Thank you Ryan for sharing with others your beautiful analysis of the “Hollywood story”. I choose to believe,like you, that God works through our pain and suffering to create a more complete and grateful soul. I chose not to view the movie because I too believe that the best is yet to come…just imagine never having experienced any of the wonderful things that God has provided for you since your injury. We continue to learn and grow as his children through HIS perfect love for us! Always praying and HOPING!!

  4. Each day is a gift. Why would we voluntarily give up these gifts? Only if we don’t realize they are gifts and think they are burdens for us or others. This happens in the absence of hope! Your story is a beautiful example of hope! Hebrews 11:1

  5. Ryan – Thank You. Again you’ve taught us all another lesson about life and God.
    When my father was in Hospice at the end of his 3 1/2 year battle with kidney cancer at age of 77, I learned that we all pass when it’s our time and not before.
    I sat with my father who literally was watching his life pass before his eyes… His occasional speaking to me as if it was when he was potty training me… And other revealing times.
    God has his own plan for us…
    God Bless you and Stephanie! We are VERY happy for your both!

  6. So well written. Truth for all of us, for our yesterdays, our todays and the unknowns of tomorrows.
    I too believe the best is yet to come for you and Stephanie! Much love an prayers and Joy sent to you both!

  7. Ryan
    Thanks for sharing. I loved that movie. I hated the ending but at the same time understand how and why he made that decision. I have prayed for you for many years but never knew how you were doing. Although I cannot relate to your situation, I admire your strength and faith in the Lord. I wish my faith was as strong. I have always loved the Lord and been grateful for everything he has provided to me and my family but it is situations like this that truly test your faith. I am glad to see you are doing well. I am sure it has not been easy but encourage you to continue to keep the faith and I will continue to pray for you and your family

    God Bless You

  8. Ryan,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to us all! Congratulations to you and Stephanie!

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