Living the good death

The terminally ill take control of their final exit

"Once they get their backup, their stash of medication, they find a sense of security that allows them to go on living -- or not," Shute says.

Wagner grew close to Zweig in the months before her death, and describes her as a woman who touched many. Shortly after they met, Zweig asked Wagner if he was married. "Honey, I'm a queer Catholic priest," he replied. "And I'm a dying old Jew," she said, "so we're made for each other." Characteristically, Wagner points out, Zweig used her death to deliver a potent message at Paradigm's very inception. "People really woke up and said, 'Wow, we're not playing house here,'" Wagner recounts. "It helped them get a grip. Our conversation became more focused. Many of the dying are better mentors to me than I can ever be to them. Thank you, Rita."

John Roemer

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