Kara Tippetts, a Christian voice against assisted dying, has died

Print More
Kara Tippets, who publicly opposed right-to-die-legislation chose this image for the final blog post she wrote herself. She died Sunday, March 22, 2015

Photo courtesy of Mundane Faithfulness

Kara Tippets, who publicly opposed right-to-die-legislation chose this image for the final blog post she wrote herself. She died Sunday, March 22, 2015

Kara Tippets chose this image for the final blog post she wrote herself. She died Sunday, March 22, 2015

Kara Tippets chose this image for the final blog post she wrote herself. She died Sunday, March 22, 2015

Kara Tippetts, 38, has died. Metastatic breast cancer took her from her pastor husband, Jason, and their four children on Sunday (March 22).

But in her last years of life, her saga of accepting suffering became, in a quietly powerful way, a cultural force for another way of choosing death with dignity, one that refused to hasten death.

In recent years, the movement for physician-assisted dying has seized the phrase “death with dignity” in its campaign to expand this option beyond the five states where it’s now legal.  Compassion & Choices, a leading lobby for this, brought national attention to Brittany Maynard, who chose to die November 1 when she was just 29, by taking a legal lethal prescription rather than lose her mind to an aggressive cancerous brain tumor.

I wrote about Maynard and Tippetts here at Faith & Reason.

Maynard starred in tear-inducing videos circulated by Compassion & Choices. There was no record of any mention of a religious or spiritual superstructure underlying her reasoning.

Tippetts, the Colorado wife, mother  and writer didn’t release national videos (that I know of) but she wrote a book The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard and she kept a blog, Mundane Faithfulness, full of praise for God and illustrated with images of a woman well loved by friends and family. Her writing was imbued with a Christian vision that physician assisted dying as a betrayal of love, God and faith, not an act of loving life.

In calm and elegant posts, Tippetts’ evangelical Christian faith wrapped her in spiritual comfort. In a post titled “By Degrees — Dying and living” she wrote:

“My little body has grown tired of battle and treatment is no longer helping. But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus. He has still given me breath, and with it I pray I would live well and fade well. By degrees doing both, living and dying, as I have moments left to live.”

Tippetts wrote an open letter to Maynard in October. It began with gratitude.

I think it is good for our culture to know what is happening in Oregon.

It’s a discussion that needs to be brought out of the quiet corners and brought brightly into the light. You sharing your story has done that. It matters, and it is unbelievably important.

But, Tippetts wrote:  “Dear heart, we simply disagree …  hastening death was never what God intended.”

Jesus, she told Maynard, “overcame the death you and I are facing in our cancer. He longs to know you, to shepherd you in your dying, and to give you life and give you life abundant- eternal life.”

Tippetts offered the altar call of traditional Christian belief, one in which suffering has meaning, to the dying reader. On her Facebook page Dec. 31, where she mentions she has now turned to hospice care, Tippetts writes that in God’s time… “Doors will appropriately open and close.”

Her voice was amplified in the mainstream media. Rod Dreher writes : “Tonight after I put the kids to bed, I will gather myself before my icon of Christ, and pray the prayers for the departed, for Kara. How strange and wonderful that I’m rejoicing that her pain is over, and that we have all gained a phenomenal intercessor. I know. Crazy Christian stuff. That’s how we are…”

When Maynard died, I wrote in Faith & Reason about what her choice to set her day of death says about the meaning of suffering. She saw no spiritual gift in it.

Tippetts did and she saw it as a gift.

Her obituary is now on the blog. “Mundane Faithfulness began as her chronicle of motherhood and living in kindness. Then, the Sunday, March 22 entry says, it  “became a blog about looking for God’s Grace to show up even in the hardest, messiest, ugliest places. It was a window into her life of chemo, church planting, spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen with her littles, her passion for Jason, her passion for those who don’t know Jesus, and her struggle to accept her growing cancer as God’s story for her life. Her self-described ‘mundane’ life appeared anything but mundane to her readers who inevitably fell in love with her inviting, joyful personality and her love for and trust in Jesus; readers were attracted to her honesty, vulnerability, sense of humor, and simple faith. She never hesitated to share the hard moments, but she always pointed her readers—and herself—back to Jesus.”

Jason and their friends wrote the blog entries in the last 12 days but March 10, here is what Kara said in what became her own final post. It begins with the arrival of a hospital bed so her days in hospice care might be more comfortable. Then she wrote:

“The nurse delivered us hard news today. News I frankly don’t believe. She said how many days she feels I’ll remain, and I’m struggling to believe her. I do see where cancer is having it’s way with my body. Where I’m growing weaker or pain is growing stronger. It’s been made clear to me I’m fading. I’m just in denial. Tonight my guy and I will sleep beside one another but separate. We will speak sweetly to each other. We may share tears about what is happening. Our goodbye. Our long goodbye is getting not so long. How do we do this? There will be grace. We need to seek it, pray for it, and rest in it. Some days it’s hard to see, hard to know- to navigate. …

“There is so much about this we cannot understand. I can’t understand that I’m not sleeping in my wedding bed with my guy tonight. I hurt that I understand what this greater pain I’m experiencing means. I feel too young to be in this battle, but maybe I’m not in a battle at all. Maybe I’m on a journey, and the journey is more beautiful than any of us can comprehend. And if we did understand, we would hold very loosely to one another because I’m going to be with Jesus. There is grace that will seep into all the cracks and pained places when we don’t understand. In the places we don’t understand we get to seek. And how lovely is one seeking truth. Stunning.”

Brittany Maynard had the spotlight for autonomy and defiance. Kara Tippetts takes the spotlight now, in “mundane faithfulness.”

Which choice would you make?

Note: Please comment — once — and then step aside so others can have their say. Faith & Reason welcomes all views, respectfully presented.

  • Suffering from untreatable depression for the last 30 years i would love to engage in death with dignity – this is where my religion (Protestant) keeps me from doing what I would love to do – commit suicide.

  • James Carr

    We are not born with any dignity, really, so why should we buy into the idea of death with “dignity”? Are we that narcisstic and selfish?
    I loathe the way this assisted self murder is advertised as a wise choice, better for you, your family, and society. Death is inevitable for all of us, it is a phase of human life. This phase can be instructive to the young, a conduit for others to offer care and love. Why think of this time as a waste, something to end before we aren’t pretty, active, or “useful”?
    Bless this woman for negating the choice that Maynard had made.

  • Pingback: Selected News Stories from Around the World* — Monday, March 23 | The BibleMesh Blog()

  • Barbara Young

    I can only feel awe, sadness and respect for both women who lived and died their truth as they saw it. Both were beautiful deaths in their own way and I wish them peace. I am sure both families feel blessed to have shared the journey with their loved ones. I wish them comfort and consolation.

  • Cara and her family have so gently, so poignantly, so lovingly described the journey from life, through death to life with Jesus. Losing my own spouse to cancer a few years ago, I can appreciate the struggle that living becomes, all the while fully appreciating the time each person is given on earth as a precious gift. As she wrote in her blog, that “… journey is more beautiful than any of us can comprehend.” It is also filled with loving, graced moments. When spouses never take a day for granted, in even the darkest days you are able to find love beyond all telling, love that can only come from God who taught us what it means to lay down one’s life, to set aside our individual desires for another. Live in Peace!

  • Paula

    I simply don’t understand why we would judge or tell one another what to do in these circumstances. Maynard was said to have experienced excruciating headaches that pain medication couldn’t touch. Who wouldn’t wish her a merciful release, if that is what she longed for? If Tippetts wished to do her dying differently, that’s fine. But I can’t heroize her choice over Maynards. Two people. Two different lives. That people of faith would extol the virtue of one choice strikes me as offputting in the extreme.

    People have and will continue to hasten their own dying when the end is near. Most often, it is by refusing to eat or drink, allowing the body to sleep more, and slowly slip away. Animals do the same thing. But when this quiet method doesn’t work, when pain is excrutiating, what sort of cruel person wishes this on another? This choice doesn’t seem to me a lack of faith in God.

  • MarkE

    As has been said, both are heartbreaking but meaningful stories of facing not only death but also the pain and fear (or lack thereof) of dying. The only difference is tnat, in most states, Brittany would not have been allowed the liberty to make her personal choice.

  • Joe Kennedy

    I agree with Barbara, Willa and Paula. I can see both choices as loving choices. W e have no right to tell a terminally ill patient who is confronting an agonizing death that she must face it for her own spiritual good.

  • Anne Marie

    I love animals and at the end of their lives, I have had to put them out of their suffering because to let them linger in pain would be selfish and cruel. I cannot believe that there is any value in suffering. To hear someone scream from pain is heart wrenching. \We don’t let our animals endure such suffering, how could we allow our loved ones too. I know I would beg for someone to end it. There is more than enough suffering in a lifetime. No need to add to it.

  • Kathy Dimont

    Medical intervention is acceptable and even applauded when it prevents deaths, even those that seem almost certainly ordained. Why then is it so antithetical to people of faith that the dying might choose to accept their fate in a quick and painless manner? Why, when countering the obvious outcomes of accidents, illness, and aging is medicine considered heroic when we are so willing to condemn those who accept death as a gift of medical care?

  • ruth

    Thank you for your post, as it expresses my feelings exactly.

  • ruth

    Yes, I agree with you and the others you mention.

  • Stephanie Powers

    I find this article and Kara Tippett’s open letter to Brittany Maynard truly self-serving and extremely judgmental. Freedom is about choice which no one should want to deny another human being, and not just about the freedom to follow the God of your choice. Perhaps there is a huge difference between suffering with your mind still intact and knowing that your disease and suffering will contain the loss of your mental faculties. I’ve got news for the “suffering faithful”, God is not a punishing God. There doesn’t have to be a religious or spiritual reason behind ending one’s own life. It is also extreme act of faith because any day is a good day to die and it’s all God’s time anyway, isn’t it?

  • Holly Tibbles

    Both women showed great courage and conviction, living and dying in the way they believe is right for them. I am sorry for the loss of both of them, they were clearly special people. As several others said, I believe God is a loving father who has embraced them both. It almost doesn’t matter what you believe, or why. They have each contributed to the larger conversation about living and dying and trying to do that with your brand of dignity, consciousness and conviction. As a society we’ve spent far too long avoiding any conversation of death at all which is so foolish since we all face it. I am grateful to them for bringing my attention to my own story and how I will live it to the end. Unless I am lucky enough to just fall asleep and never wake up again, I’ll probably have choices to make about how my story ends. What a blessing they’ve both given us.

  • Pamela Clare

    I just finished a year-long battle with stage 1 breast cancer. I do not believe that cancer is God’s story or plan for anyone’s life. It just happens. It’s a bad thing, never a blessing. Bad things happen in this world, and whether or not we make something out of our situation, whether we find ways to turn our experience into a gift for others, depends on us. I would choose to end my life on my terms before suffering made life feel like a curse.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Hmm…I suppose that in situations like this the old cliche holds sway:”Unless you are in my position,you have no ownership in the choices I make between me and My God”.Ms.Maynard’s choice certainly wasn’t negated by this woman’s death;that’s absurd.I always reflect on the idea that one can get to a point where you’re simply existing,and the state that you’re in can in no sense be considered”life”. In any case,when all is said and done,it will ALWAYS be between you and Almighty God,with family and physician playing secondary roles.The best course of actions for the commentors on this site is to ask yourself this simple question: Faced with unrelenting,horrendous,unrelieved,agonizing pain…What would YOU do?

  • Pingback: Kara Tippetts, Christian who blogged against assisted suicide, succumbs to cancer()

  • Peter Fenzel

    Kara, you are a child of the Light. Your destiny is perfect joy. Oh, how you shine!

  • Mary

    Please reach out and seek help! Your life is precious and your son needs you-no matter how old he is. Here is a resource for you. http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
    You can chat with someone online or call and speak with someone.
    The phone number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
    You are worth it!

  • lisag

    People commit suicide all the time for many reasons, but usually it is seen as something gone wrong. If only they had gotten help maybe there would have been another outcome. Why then do we celebrate taking one’s life with the help of the medical community. Brittany became a poster child for a cause that wants to deny the Christian God and separate man’s conscience form him. I teach catechism to middle school kids. Brittany has influenced them and many others to second guess the preciousness of life and the intentions of the Creator. I pray God will have mercy on her soul.

  • Pam

    Thank you for this grace filled message.

  • Ann

    We Christians seem to live by a double standard. We give humans the freedom to intervene on God’s behalf or act as the “hands of God” by medically intervening to save (prolong) lives but not to aid in offering relief in dying. We believe in the sanctity of life but ignore the reality, rightly or wrongly, that we play God when we step in to preserve life.

    We have to acknowledge that millions of people, left solely in Gods hands, die at all ages and for all kind of reasons. (Have you read the Bible?) So why do we feel freedom to medically “save” those that God would allow to die but not offer comfort when God IS obviously calling them home.

    Before medical treatments and advancements were available, human life was cut short all the time. No, God may not have desired it, but He didn’t stop it. We freely assume God favors medical treatments to “save” lives but we shame others who request assistance in their passing onto heaven. We paint it as a moral issue. A suffering that we owe. And we do owe a death. We all owe a death for our sin but that is what the cross covers. Oh, we will all die but I do not think it is outside of God’s plan to medically assist in the process, given the medical advances we feel free to employ when saving lives.

    I have witnessed the deaths of loved ones who loved God deeply and had agonizing deaths. Part of me wishes they could have been spared that torture through assistance but the fear of spiritual judgement hangs over our heads. To not provide medical assistance in those circumstances seem inconsistent at best, cruel at worst.

    Thankfully God gave us medical privileges, not to hurt but to help. Aiding someone in their death, is not the same as causing their death. They will die, regardless. It is about being compassionate. It’s not even about death with dignity, its about death with peace, Yes, we can always have spiritual peace but when pain wrecks you and you become disoriented or unable to bear it. Let grace step in.

  • Pam

    The more you read and understand Holy Scripture, the easier it will be for you to understand and strongly support Kara Tippetts views on Christian suffering. I am a brain tumor cancer survivor. I also have been suffering excruciating pain from being hit by an automobile over 35 years ago. Most nights I cannot sleep because of the severe pain. Presription meds do not help at all. I have been through and have tried almost every treatment for pain, though nothing works. Many times I say to myself, “I wish I could just die to relieve me of this pain”. Pain is pain and no one will understand the depth of pain until one goes through it themselves. However, at no time did I have ever consciously choose to end my life or to do whatever was available or have access to to end my life because of the pain. In the Bible, it is taught that Jesus suffered, but He endured it with the help of His father and He was raised to perfection three days later. God will help each one of us to endure through the sufferings of pain, if we ask Him and believe that He will. He will carry us through the pain if we trust the Lord. Ask, believe and receive. Life is a gift from God Almighty. It is not up to us to determine how long we are to live this life. That is determined by God and God alone. And we are not God!

  • CB

    I totally agree with the above post. I wish Tippetts’ family well, especially her young children, who may actually lose their faith because of/in spite of their mother’s strong beliefs.

    In any case, Tippetts’ letter was in poor taste. It assumed Maynard not only believed in God, but in a Christian God. The references were constant. Maynard and her family never so much as alluded to having beliefs in a higher power. It is naive and judgmental to think that people share your faith in Jesus. Different strokes for different folks. I don’t think she had any right to interfere and if she felt compelled, she could have easily emailed her.

  • Pingback: Brittany Maynard video could sway Calif. death debate (CBS News) | Caitlin Beck()

  • Rebecca

    God bless both these women. I don’t know what I would do but I saw my sister suffer after chemo with no quality of life and died six months after being diagnosed. I certainly know one thing, if I ever get cancer, I am not having chemo.

  • Joe

    Pete, I’ll pray for you, brother.

  • Frangelica Bloodletter

    Kara Tippetts offends me and here’s why: Choosing to suffer isn’t really the most courageous path you can take. Things could be worse than sitting around spiritually enjoying life and writing a blog while you wait to die. You could be so terminally ill that you actually have to make the decision to give up your life “on God’s time.” You may have to choose, not unlike Jesus, to die for a reason. Jesus chose to die on the cross. He could have so easily taken the less courageous path, stopped performing miracles, gave in to peer pressure, walked away never to be heard of again. I pity this woman who spent some of the last moments of her precious life judging another woman who made the ultimate sacrifice in faith and love. God speed, Brittany Maynard. may we always have the choice to decide what we want to do with our lives in life and death.

  • Leisa

    I too am struggling with mind numbing depression. I have a brain cyst that prevents me from sleeping with out a lot of medication and even then sleep is very “fractured”. I am struggling to continue life….I woke early again on Monday 3-23-15 praying and searching my heart for a place to rest my mind and fill it with positive messages and mantras I sought the internet. One of the first articles I would read that morning was about Kara Tippetts …Do I think was a fluke? Absolutely not. I read morning about her life later that morning taking notes as I read, crying and praying over her life and family left behind. Through out this week Kara has continued to be in my heart and in my mind. I have read everything I can find on her, I ordered her book. I want the grace that she found, I want the relationship with God that she honed through her dedication, and love of Christ. What an amazing woman, so wise for 38 what a precious gift her husband and children had in the years they spent together. I know Kara is at peace and walking streets of gold with great delight in all that she is experiencing. My thoughts turn to Jason and her four children, to her extended family and friends, my heart aches for them I can’t image the pain of losing this amazing Mom, wife, friend and so much more. Kara thank you for the life lessons you bravely taught us all! My heart will always hold a place for you. I look forward to the day when meet in eternity.

  • Ladi

    Brittany Maynard did not intervene nor interfere with Kara’s chosen way, and the favor of understanding and kindness should have been a two way street, perhaps. Each person’s journey here, in life and death, is individual.

    All along, Kara repeats that she does not wish to die. Many prayed she would be healed, yet she was not. In the end, it was said “How many she brought to a new understanding of grace, faithfulness and God because of her suffering” to which I always and will always wonder, How many more might have been brought to God’s grace in her healing? Christian platitudes are sadly lacking at such depth of sadness and disparity.

  • bellofpeace

    If you choose between relegion and compassion choose compassion

  • Delora williams

    We all are dying from the womb to the grave. There is no dignity in death. Did Jesus offer his life for the dignity of death? He that came and suffered on the cross,died in suffering. He was beaten, bruised, pierced, spat upon, mocked, denounced, ridiculed. His flesh was in pain. Jesus suffered and gave his life through death, so that we may have eternal life. Dignity was never promised to any, but eternal life is promised to us that believe in Christ Jesus. Christians through out the world are being persecuted. There are those that have been beheaded, tortured, beaten. May I ask, where is the dignity? To those of us who accept Christ is also to accept the sufferings of Christ.It is appointed to man once to die, then the judgement. We do not all know what manner of death will remove us or release us from this earthly to the heavenly, but we can be assured if we accept Christ into our hearts and lives, that our suffering is only temporal. Joy comes in the morning!