Xand Griffin is a Marketing Manager in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.
My mom, Giovanna ‘JoJo’ Griffin was a single mother. A strong one.
To support her kids, she worked on the railroad tracks operating heavy machinery. Being the only woman among a crew of fifty men, she did the things that she had to do. She scraped together a life to be proud of for us.
Her moral compass always pointed in the right direction. She encouraged me to follow her lead and have compassion for those less fortunate.
She didn’t deserve to die a slow, painful death. But she endured two years of prolonged suffering before dying of lung cancer in 2019.
Caring for My Mom
When mom was diagnosed, my sister took on most of the physical day-to-day caretaking and I took on the medical decision-making.
It was nearly impossible to make intelligent decisions about medical care and procedures completely unknown to me. I became obsessed with the topic of cancer. It became a common occurrence for doctors to mistake me for a medical nurse.
I became a good advocate for my mom. But there was only so much I could do.
A Painful Question and a Painful Death
If I had made better decisions, would she have died peacefully instead of painfully? This question will always be with me.
Her final weeks were unbearable, even with the support of hospice care workers. Doing everything legally possible, they could not alleviate her pain. Watching her suffer broke my heart and left me changed forever.
The Death She Wanted
At the time of her death in August 2017, New Jersey did not yet have a death with dignity law; Governor Phil Murphy signed the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act in April 2019. Had my mom lived in a state with an assisted dying law, she could have had the death she wanted and asked for.
When I try to recall her, I find myself remembering the devastating months leading up to her death.
The Guilt I Carry
Soon after her diagnosis, my mother told me there would be a time when she would ask me to help her die quickly and painlessly. It felt wrong every time she asked.
I still feel guilty that I wasn’t able to fulfill her wish—and no person should have to carry that guilt.
Hope in the Midst of Grief
That is why I have become an advocate for Death with Dignity National Center. Knowing there is an organization like Death with Dignity National Center working to advocate for the rights of people like my mom fills me with hope.
Let’s Have Compassion
Together, let’s have compassion for the dying individuals around us and allow them the right to decide how they die, and how they are remembered.