A Last Letter from J.

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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I received a letter from an old friend today; a letter that left me stunned at first..then angry then terribly sad because it would be the last time I’d ever hear from her again.
In the e-mail, sent to several former colleagues, J. said she has decided to end her own life.
And I, for one, don’t intend to do or say anything to stop her.
When J. came to work at Keloland 20 years ago, she started out as a production assistant but it didn’t take long to recognize her skills and she soon became our very first woman producer.
J. was one of those people who just “got it. She quickly became the go-to person in the newsroom for anyone with a question about anything.
She could be counted on to get things done.
J. loved to laugh and was an absolute joy to be around.
She didn’t have many boyfriends, that I knew about anyway, but her social calendar was filled hob-nobbing with co-workers, church friends or volunteering for any charity that could use a hand.  One of her favorites was the Ski For Light organization.
Each winter she headed out to the Black Hills ski slopes to help visually impaired people enjoy the thrill of skiing.
Then 15 years ago, when J. was still in her twenties, she was struck down by a massive stroke.
It left this energetic young woman paralyzed below the neck and unable to speak.
She’s been at a facility specializing in long term care for patients with brain injuries ever since.
J. eventually managed to learn to communicate through a computer that translated her head and eye movements into letters enabling her to send e-mails..an agonizingly slow and frustrating process.
She would often correspond this way with her old friends from Kelo including a note of congratulations to me shortly before my retirement.
I really didn’t know what to say when I wrote back except that I treasure the memories of our association together and pray that she’ll one day know why she has had to suffer so.
That day will be arriving soon, apparently.
J. writes that she’s tired; tired of the pain from ongoing medical problems. Tired of being dependant on others when she was the one others could always depend on.
Tired of crying.
After almost constant prayer and visits with a minister, a psychologist and staff, J. has chosen to die. She’ll stop eating, drinking and taking most medications in order to hasten the end.
I suspect that most of us have thought about how we would handle the horror of being confined to only our own thoughts unable to ever move or talk again.
J. has faced up to her situation bravely but the time has come to choose a path that will let her go home.
A home she’s only been able to dream about where she will finally be free of the shackles that have bound her for so long.I suppose there are those who believe it is against God’s will for her to take such drastic action.
I don’t happen to be one of them. May you have a peaceful liberating journey, J.

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