Audrey Parker writes her own obit: 'I died a beautiful death'
Create a bucket list. Help others. Maintain a positive mindset. Avoid feeling sorry for yourself. Forgive people.
These are just some of the things Audrey Parker did in the months leading up to her medically assisted death that helped her take control of her life and allowed her to have what she described as a “beautiful death.”
The 57-year-old Halifax woman was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in 2016 and received palliative care for the disease, which spread to the lining of her brain. She died at home surrounded by friends and family on Thursday afternoon – just as she had planned.
Before her scheduled death, Parker advocated for changing Canada’s assisted-death laws, which currently require anyone receiving medical assistance in dying (MAID) to give late stage consent immediately before the procedure.
She arranged her death earlier than she wanted out of concern her deteriorating cognitive abilities from the cancer in her brain would make her ineligible for MAID at a later date.
Despite this obstacle, Parker was able to take control of every other aspect of her death, as she explained in a touching obituary she wrote for herself.
“I was never able to get control of the cancer that consumed my body, but I did take control of every aspect of my end-of-life experience,” she wrote. “I drifted off to my final sleep in my bedroom surrounded by my loved ones, flowers, candles, inspiring art and Laura Smith singing. It was perfection.”
Published in the local paper The Chronicle Herald, Parker wrote about how she came to terms with dying sooner than she would have liked, how she lived a full and happy life, and how she became an advocate for the MAID patients who would come after her. She said she decided to embrace her death and show others how to approach it in a more positive way.
“There is so much negativity and fear around death, but I always believed our first breath gives us life, but it’s our final breath that honours our lifetime,” she said.
Along with adjusting her mindset, Parker said she became active in her community and that doing so gave her life new meaning. She became a spokesperson and fundraiser for the newly built Hospice Halifax and raised awareness about MAID through her many speaking engagements.
“Cancer was never in my plan and neither was becoming an advocate, but as it turned out, becoming an advocate gave me an incredible sense of purpose,” she said.
Parker went on to share fond memories from her childhood in Gaspereau, N.S., her pursuit of higher education, and her participation in various charitable endeavours.
Finally, Parker gave her heartfelt thanks to a long list of friends and family who supported her and cared for her, particularly in those final months.
“I loved my friends. I loved my life and I decided to love my death,” she wrote.
In her parting words, Parker shared one last piece of advice.
“Until we meet again, I leave you with a simple message: Be kind… because you can.”