Friday, February 17th, 2012
On her website, Christina Symanski is standing and smiling on a bridge. On her Facebook page, she is seated in a wheelchair, smiling. An artist and an art teacher, at 24 she’d been paralyzed from the chest down in a diving accident. Afterward, she continued painting, using her mouth to hold the paintbrush and pouring her emotions about her paraylsis onto the canvas. “Painting definitely makes me feel happy,” she said. “It’s one of the few things I can still do by myself that I have full control over.”
Christina died in December. It was her choice; she starved herself to death.
Two months before, she stopped eating, taking medication and drinking except for occasional sips of water. As she posted on her website Life; Paralyzed, “When I think about all the factors, and weigh all the variables, that contribute to MY daily life, the negatives vastly outweigh the positives.” She was in a lot of pain and suffered from bedsores and the shame of needing to have the most basic functions done for her. When last spring she told her mother, Louise, that she no longer wished to live, her mother said, ”I was with you the day you came into the world and I will be with you when you leave it.” Christina passed away in her arms.
I first read about Christina last weekend, in this article, and she has haunted me ever since. Her blog is one of the most upsetting things I have ever read, raw and full of anguish and despair.
Part of me understands Christina’s decision to end her suffering. And yet, I kept wondering what I would have done if I were her mother. Would I have been able to let my child starve herself, even if it was what she desperately wanted? Would I have fought her every step of the way? I can’t imagine letting go of a child like that. I can’t imagine the conversations those two had.
As the mom of a child with special needs, I felt a certain connection with Christina’s mother. I am sure she was willing to do whatever she humanly could to keep her daughter comfortable and cared for. Letting her go, it seems to me, is the most unselfish thing a mother could have ever done.