‘The Luscious’ was my nickname for her: Chris was voluptuous and generous. For more than thirty years, we were best friends.
Early July she called with devastating news. She had cancer, incurable and untreatable, the type that kills quickly. Within fifteen minutes I was with her. We cried, made lists of what she still wanted to do, who needed to be called and what she had to arrange.
A day and a half later we decided to get married. Partly because Chris desperately wanted someone who would stand beside her the next months, someone who would never leave her; partly because spouses are legally entitled to more than best friends, more than brothers and sisters. And partly because if we got married we could wrap the bad news in a grand farewell party, and her friends would have the opportunity to see her in optima forma for the last time. And we got married because women today finally can, and now we could make good use of that right.
We called it ‘marrying against the grain’.
Mid-August, on the hottest day of the century, one hundred and fifty friends came together in the Tolhuis garden in Amsterdam. Her brother gave her away to me, her sister was our witness. It was a beautiful, moving party.
That first evening in July, Chris already said: “So, that will be euthanasia, in due time.” We signed papers. The hospital as well as her GP promised to work with us. That comforted her greatly. Because she knew that she ultimately could determine her limit, she could bear her illness and impending death significantly better. Her right to euthanasia made her feel that she would retain control. It allowed her to remain brave.
When the doctor finally appeared by her bed and asked Chris – as the law requires him – if she still wanted euthanasia, she answered resolutely: “Yes … please!” I held her when it happened. I felt her heart stop.
Since then I am a widow.
Eventually Chris survived for almost seven months and we were married for almost half a year. It was beautiful, it was hard, it was full of love and without any regret.
For her – and for her only – I would do it again, without hesitation.
Chris and I praised ourselves lucky that we live in a country where euthanasia is possible, and where same sex marriage is legal. Without those two things, her life in recent months would have been unspeakably much harder.
In December, Pope Benedict XVI claimed that abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage have plunged the world into destruction. Chris and I had a fit. Two out of three: not a bad score, we thought. (Fortunately, the right to abortion, which we have always defended, neither of us ever had to exercise.)
So I was strangely satisfied to hear the Pope, three days after Christiane’s euthanasia, had decided to resign. He had lost.
She and I have not – we have chosen. We could choose.
[Bridal photo: Reinoud van Leeuwen; translation: Iwan Boskamp]