Crabby Old Lady Watches the Academy Awards

Living and Dying: A Love Story

At the bottom of this page is the latest edition of The Alex and Ronni Show – a conversation between me and my former husband, Alex Bennett, that we recorded on Tuesday.

Early in the recording, Alex (who lives in New York City) asked about Oregon's Death With Dignity Act – that is, physician-assisted suicide – and as serendipity sometimes has it, later that day as I was looking around the web, a documentary about an Oregon married couple's choice to die together in this way turned up.

Living and Dying: A Love Story is powerful and poignant, sad and uplifting and by the end, you know this couple, Charlie and Francie Emerick, made the right choice for them.

The couple's daughter, Sher Safran and her husband, Rob, asked permission to record her parents' final days and hours, and also gained their approval to share the video publicly.

Both Charlie and Francie had been diagnosed with less than six months to live and they are thought to be the only couple to take the drugs together. Kaiser Health News (KNH) reports,

”The pair, early members of the 1980s-era Hemlock Society, had supported the choice for years, and, when their illnesses worsened, they were grateful to have the option for themselves, family members said.

“'This had always been their intention,'” said [another] daughter Jerilyn Marler, 66, who was the couple’s primary caretaker in recent years. 'If there was a way they could manage their own deaths, they would do it.'”

And so they did, taking the state-prescribed medication together on 20 April 2017. Kaiser Health News again:

Francie, 88, went first, within 15 minutes, a testament to the state of her badly weakened heart. Charlie, 87, a respected ear, nose and throat physician, died an hour later, ending a long struggle that included prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease diagnosed in 2012.

“'They had no regrets, no unfinished business,' said Sher Safran, 62, one of the pair’s three grown daughters. 'It felt like their time, and it meant so much to know they were together.'”

But that is only the bare bones of the story. Sher and Rob, using mostly cell phone video, have produced a remarkable record not only of her parents' long (66 years) and loving marriage, but of the procedure involved with using the Death With Dignity Law in Oregon that so many of us are curious about.

Here is a trailer from the Safrans' 45-minute documentary, Living and Dying: A Love Story.

You can see a short, 20-minute version of the documentary at the Safran's website, Share Wisdom Network, where the longer, full version is also available to view online. (Scroll down to get to them.)

It is astonishingly brave to make this choice of controlling one's death – choosing time and day and making preparations. I've always said that I want to die in my sleep although I'm told most people say this and that it doesn't happen often.

Physician-assisted suicide is, to me, a good alternative when you know there is no chance of recovery and that your life will become considerably more difficult and/or painful toward the end. I would hope, in that circumstance, I would make the decision Charlie and Francie Emerick did.

Here are a couple of links that may interest you:

Wikipedia overview of U.S. states that allow assisted suicide.
Oregon Health Authority's section on the Death With Dignity Act with answers to your questions.

* * *

The Alex and Ronni Show
Recorded Tuesday 6 April 2018.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests after me, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube or Vimeo.


Hi, Ronnie. This was fun. Wanted you to know I enjoyed it and I'm glad you are doing so well. Interesting bit about how older people feel as if they have become invisible. So true. Sven will turn 80 this year. Big birthday! All the best to you.

Thank you.

I'm thankful to be living in a state that has legalized death with dignity (I hate the term "assisted suicide"). However, there are still a lot of hurdles. Most church-affiliated hospitals will not allow it, and that's the majority of hospitals, it seems. A lot of doctors won't participate for personal ethical reasons. Pharmacies don't have to sell the drugs. And of late I've read there's now a lot of price gouging for those drugs.

I thought the Alex-Ronni interview was entertaining as well as informative on some important subjects. Incidentally, I have a beautiful wife who recently turned 76, about Ronni's age I believe. Neither of them needs to suggest turning down lights to make them more beautiful.

I can't wait to watch these. We allow our pets more dignity than ourselves........when they can't find any joy in life, or are suffering with no end of it in sight, we arrange for them to move on, off planet. Thanks so much Ronni, this will be informative I know, and what a great topic.

What a sensitively done documentary on death with dignity. I think it was while reading Betty Rollin's book, "First You Cry,"' that I became aware of how strongly I believe that we should have as much right to decide how the end of our lives go as we do in determining much of the rest. It's surprising to me that this movement hasn't seemed to have gained much support over the decades since. Even in the film, when they were working on the note to leave behind, it seemed clear that the one daughter had a very hard time saying anything suggesting that her parents had planned their concurrent death. I found that disappointing, but reflective of the difficulty people still have with the admission of making such a choice.

I live in a state that has just recently allowed medical marijuana and that took many years of debate and effort, so I don't anticipate ever having legal options for ending my life here, but I think I have figured out a couple of different ways to accomplish this for myself, if I come to a point that I'm ready for that, and am still coherent and able-bodied enough to do it for myself. I won't involve anyone else as long as it's illegal.

It angers me so that we don't have assisted dying aid in ALL states in the US. It is so unfair to the rest of us.

Here in the South, we are mired in religious conservatism and it will never change here.

I'm happy for this couple for having the absolute right to die with dignity.

I could say so much on both videos, but I am sure I have already said most of it on these pages anyhow. So I will just say, that I thoroughly enjoy watching you, Ronni, interact with Michael and, of course, you know I am perfect agreement with what you say.

Not only am I invisible due to being old, but have been invisible due to a hearing loss. for many years before retirement. If someone is with me when I am at a check-out counter, the clerk talks to that person and ignores my presence. I would like to tell them how insulting that is, but for reasons of my own, I don't say anything.

I do not live in a state forward enough to have the death with dignity law and I am sorry that I don't have that option. I have taken as many provisions as I can legally do so to take control of my death, but it's mostly prevention of doctors or medics giving me life saving procedures when I do not want them. I would love to be able to drink a Syonara cocktail and just go to sleep, but I will not be granted that option. I have contemplated saving some of my medications to take all at once, but I have found out that this can result in a very painful death or it may leave me worse off than I was.

If you have the money and some remaining ability, you can go to Switzerland with prior approval and lots of money. You don't have to be a citizen

Thank you, Ronni, for your kind words so beautifully written about our film. I do hope every state passes DWD sooner than later. You and Alex are adorable and I loved the conversation between the two of you - funny, poignant, insightful!

I loved both your topics. Definitely want to watch the full film "Living and Dying". Wish we did live in a physician-supported suicide state. My 97-year-old mother keeps asking about "the pill"-and she has no terminal disease other than "life". . .just tired of keeping on, with her memory deteriorating badly.

Really enjoyed the interview between you and Alex. I tremendously appreciate your sparkly smile and face--the two of you seem to have a really nice repartee.

Loved the interview with you and Alex. Great to see you on telly. Very sparkly interview .

You are doing a fantastic job dealing with our ageing society. Its coming to us all however we might fight it.

I deeply appreciate your sharing how your parents coped with death.

Charlie and Francie Emerick seemed like wonderful people and did nothing illegal under Oregon law. But watching their video truly broke my heart. Neither appeared to be in pain or to have any concern about paying for their nursing/assisted living care. They had loving family and good friends who would have stood with them no matter what. They had each other. It just doesn't make sense, especially Francie's premature death. She really did not know what kind of inner strength she had within her and that to believe she could not be happy as a widow is incredibly sad. To paraphrase something attributed to Bob Marley, "No one knows what strong is until they have to live it."

Peace to the memory of Charlie and Francie Emerick. Grant unto them eternal rest, Lord. May their souls, like those of all the departed, rest in God's peace.

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