Ashlin and Aaron, 2013
(Image by Aaron Winborn, used with permission) Details DMCA
My longtime friend decided to die last week, on the heels of the Spring Equinox, the archetypal moment of renewal and new life.
He sent out a Facebook farewell with an invitation to his memorial service, scheduled for a few days after he would "pull the plug."
Forty-seven, married with two little girls, it was four years ago that he was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease). He navigated a rapid deterioration with more grace and dignity than most people muster for dealing with daily stress.
Aaron and his family, March 2015
(Image by S. Yorty, used with permission) Details DMCA
ALS is 100% fatal and results in a slow death, with the most common cause of death being suffocation resulting from a paralyzed diaphragm muscle. The disease afflicts about 350,000 people in the world annually. Approximately half of the patients die within three years of diagnosis.
After Aaron made his announcement, a few religious fundamentals rebuked him or tried to dissuade him, some even publicly suggested he had made a wrong choice, and might be punished for eternity.
But as Vine Deloria Jr. famously said, "Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who've already been there." And Aaron certainly qualifies.
Thankfully, the vast majority of people posting on Aaron's and his family's Facebook pages were compassionate, understanding and supportive, and offered heartwarming words of comfort. He'd clearly surrounded himself with an extended family of deep friendship. And they all stretched out their love to midwife him on his journey.
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