Dying with Dignity

I’m not a fan of reality TV. I see enough confusion and humiliation in my job without watching it on my day off.  However, who could fail to be moved by the life and death of Jade Goody. She was a poorly educated woman who made the most of every opportunity given to her, a modern example of a fairy tale. I worked with someone today who said they were just like Jade – big mouthed, and big hearted. She was, they though, like a modern Princess Diana.  

But until a few months ago, Jade was a figure of scorn and an exemplar of ignorance. She only became universally popular to a certain generation when she received her terminal diagnosis of cancer. Those who had poured scorn on her until recently, embraced her in her last illness. Why? Because we live in a society with a generation of young adults who don’t know anything about death, and for whom Jade has become a mentor on that journey.

A remarkable number of young people have never been to a funeral, never seen a dead body, never spent time with someone who is dying.  Their vision is confused by inexperience.  For them, death is a frightening unknown, stalking the world of the elderly; death happens when you get old, not when you are young; when you are young you are immune – and if something does go wrong it must be someone’s fault!

So thank God for the example that Jade has played out in the media spotlight. She has been an exemplar of how to have a ‘good’ death. She provided financially for her sons, and put her affairs in order. She was ready spiritually and emotionally to say good-bye. She did not keep her children at a distance from her death, nor the cameras.  

So this generation have some idea of what dying and death can bring. They have seen a courageous young woman coming to terms with and accepting the foreshortening of her life with dignity. I hope she has made provision for her children to attend her funeral, so that in time they will approach death without the ignorance of fear. She has done a real service to her generation – God speed, Jade, and rest in peace.

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