A few days ago, at the end of the Pilates class I teach, one of my Dutch students came up to me to say she wouldn’t be in class for three weeks. This is normal; my students are mostly expats and are always coming and going. Or they have family visiting, or someone is having a grandchild, etc.
And then she said, “I’m going home because my father is entering euthanasia.”
Which is not the sort of thing one is accustomed to hearing in casual after-class conversation. But one of the things I love about living in Europe is the intersection of different cultures and national laws/ways of doing things. So I asked, and learned that her father is 94 years old and has been slowly dying of a broken heart since her mother passed away in January.
“He can still do everything,” she said, “but every step is just so hard for him. It’s all so hard. He’s ready.”
The whole family is gathering from all over the continent for a massive, multi-week reunion and party. Her father will be able to see all the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and there will be food and drink and conversation, and then he will leave on a high note.
I told her that my home state was the first in the US to legalize euthanasia, and we discussed what a gift it is for those who want to go on their terms. She is happy for her father, who has been buoyed by the knowledge that he will never lose control of his life. He will get to say good-bye on his terms, and she will be able to say it as well. It is not only a gift for him.
She’ll be back at the end of the month. I expect she’ll have quite a story to tell.