Brittany Maynard took a medicine that ended her life. She shouldn't have had to make such an awful choice, but she was grateful to have a choice at all. Do you remember her? She was the bright-eyed, pragmatic young woman who moved with her husband to Oregon so she could die on her own terms instead of on cancer's terms. It was big-time national news.


Image used with permission from Dan Diaz.

Her family is still hard at work trying to make sure other people can have the dignity of their own choices, too. Here's her mom with a sweet story about banana pancakes and a more difficult story of how they went about getting the end-of-life medication Brittany needed.

Brittany's widower, Dan Diaz, has been an ardent spokesman for Death With Dignity laws. Here's something he shared with Upworthy that he'd like anyone opposed to Death With Dignity to consider:

"Brittany and I listened to the narrative that the opposition presents, but unfortunately their message is out of touch with the reality of what a person in Brittany's situation is facing. The opposition's message is based on fear, uncertainty, and doubt, concerning who should be in control of one's own dying process. And when they finish delivering their message they have not offered a solution or an alternative to a person like Brittany who is facing a torturous death. It seems their position is: 'We don't approve of what Brittany did, but we don't have an alternative to offer, so anyone in her predicament will just have to die in agony.'

Brittany refused to accept that position and simply took control of her own health care decisions. She voiced her disapproval of the current system in California, and because of her voice we are now seeing change occur. (It is with great pride in my wife that I continue what she began.)

I am not trying to force my position on anyone else, neither was Brittany. The strength of this law is that it is an option that the individual would need to pursue for him/herself. So I am merely trying to convey the reality of what Brittany faced and how it is essential that the individual should be the decision maker regarding their own circumstances. That's all Brittany wanted to establish."



If you think Brittany's story is just an outlier — one extreme fringe case in a world where most people don't want to have this choice — I have to show you something.

This is Cody Curtis and her husband.

She died using the Death With Dignity law when her terminal liver cancer made her suffering unbearable.

Image from "How to Die In Oregon," used with permission.

And this is Peter Scott.

Image from "How to Die In Oregon," used with permission.

And it doesn't stop with them.

In 2011, there were over a million terminally diagnosed patients using hospice services (end-of-life care). 65% of people polled expressed interest in laws to uphold their end-of-life decisions so that they can plan and stay in control of how their loved ones remember their time here.

And one of the most staggering statistics comes from a Compassion and Choices report on a recent Harris Poll:

"Three out of four Americans (74%) polled after Brittany Maynard utilized Oregon's Death With Dignity Act agreed that: 'Individuals who are terminally ill, in great pain and who have no chance for recovery, have the right to choose to end their own life.'"


Dan Diaz and Brittany Maynard. Image used with permission from Dan Diaz.

Self-reflection time:

Do you know anyone who's terminally ill, or have you lost someone who struggled through a vicious disease that they had no chance of surviving? Could you imagine a moment during their intense suffering where you could understand and support their decision to end their pain?

For me, it was my brother Alan and my grandma Dixie, who both died painful deaths from cancer. They are the reason why I care so much for this cause and wanted to share this story with our audience. Who are you going to share this piece in honor of?

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.