Ga. family reminds America what ‘death with dignity’ looks like

· February 26, 2017  
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Left to Right: Jenna, Josh, and Reilly Bueler, Jennifer Keenan Gilberto | jkeenan Photography

Last week, Washington, D.C., joined six other states that officially legalized physician-assisted suicide (PAS) after the House failed to pass a disapproval resolution to overturn the so-called “Death with Dignity Act.” Advocates of assisted suicide argue that such laws afford terminally ill patients the option to end their lives in a “peaceful, humane, and dignified manner.”

One remarkable family’s story, however, provides a far different view of what a “dignified” death — and life — looks like.

Josh and Jenna Buehler were less than a year into their marriage when Josh was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer and told he had 15 months to live. Despite the grim prognosis, the couple’s hope and optimism quickly proved to be their strength. 

“We started talking openly about death,” Jenna Buehler told Shari Puterman and The Advertiser. “I would ask, ‘Are you dying?’ and he would say, ‘No plans.’  That kind of became his mantra. We were just gonna live life. He wasn’t planning on dying.”

Shortly after Josh’s diagnosis, the newlyweds, who had always dreamed of having a family of their own, decided to start trying. And in January 2016 (after about 20 months of trying alternative methods), the Buehlers learned that their first IVF attempt was a success.

But the harrowing tale of Josh’s cancer continued. That June, doctors discovered a rare and even more aggressive form of brain cancer that dwarfed his original prognosis: four to six weeks, or three to four months with treatment.

Even so, this was Josh’s response: “Bring it on.”

The expecting father opted for another excruciating round of radiation and chemotherapy. He wasn’t going to miss the birth of his first child.

On Sept. 19, 2016, the Buehlers welcomed their daughter Reilly into the world. Josh Buehler died on Nov. 6, seven weeks later. He was holding his daughter.

The Buehlers didn’t get the miracle they were hoping for, but they got another miracle: their family, and their memories. Josh experienced the joy, fear, pride, and yes, dignity of being a father. But even greater, he discovered that life — no matter how long or how brief — has purpose and meaning.  

The Advertiser’s Puterman writes: 

Josh wanted Reilly more than anything – and Jenna is committed to making sure her daughter knows it.

“‘She’s a little baby girl Josh … She looks just like him. It was a goal to have him hold on to meet his daughter,” Jenna says. “At the end, he would still tell me that he was going to help raise her.’”

Josh and Jenna’s story is now the subject of a new documentary, “This Is … ,” which traces the Buehlers’ journey, from Josh’s diagnosis to his premature death. The result is a far more noble and romantic outlook than the dismal, pragmatic, survival-of-the-fittest view we find underlying the “death with dignity” movement. Jenna hopes the documentary will help raise awareness about the evils of cancer and the priceless gift that is life.

Dying with dignity means choosing and fighting for life until the very end. It means fully acknowledging one’s own humanity, and the humanity of others. It means understanding that life is always and unequivocally — from conception to natural death — a gift.

Carly Hoilman is a Correspondent for Conservative Review. You can follow her on Twitter @CarlyHoilman.  

Author: Carly Hoilman

Carly Hoilman is a correspondent for Conservative Review. You can follow her on Twitter @CarlyHoilman.