We live. We die. On Feb. 18, 2003, I was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
I have lived 86 years of a healthy, fulfilling life. I was nurtured by caring Pennsylvania German parents, Irwin and Kate Peifly. I was the youngest of seven with a surviving 90-year-old sister, Marion, whose birthday we celebrated last July with our whole immediate family in Tennessee.
In 1937, I graduated from Catawba College. I taught Latin, English and some math in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In 1941, I married a fellow Catawban, Paul Strauch, an ordained United Church of Christ minister. We lived in Freemansburg, Pa.; in Buffalo, N.Y.; in Washington, D.C.; in Philadelphia; in New Cumberland, Pa.; in Danbury, Conn.; in the Church House in Perry County, Pa.; and finally in the really exciting Uplands Retirement Village in Pleasant Hill, Tenn. High moments in those years were listening attentively to Paul's well-thought-out, inspiring, relevant sermons, which he preached in his prime.
I wanted four sons, and God blessed us with John, Joel, Tim and Tom. They have matured into fine supportive, caring men. And we have seven smart, talented grandchildren—Mark, Julie, Matt, Kelsey, Jackie, Sam and Holly. What more can one ask from life.
We have followed our sons to the Galapagos, to the Serengeti, to Europe and to places in between.
Friends have added so much to my life. I have had a steady correspondence with Mary Kurkowski, Arlene Fegley, Harriet Meyers Weil and Marylouise Meder. All of you who have received our Christmas letter have touched my life deeply.
My decision, which was made years ago, was that I would choose to depart through Death with Dignity. I did not want to spend continued energy and resources on further treatment. Oregon, fortunately, has such a program, and Tom, our youngest son, and Laura live in Salem, Ore. With Tom's abundant know-how, we established my residency here. After a 15-day period, I will take my last adventure on earth. I believe in a loving, forgiving God.
My husband of 61 years, Paul, is now a resident of the May Cravath Wharton Nursing Home, Pleasant Hill, TN 38578. He has been supportive in my choice of dying.
My memorial service, which I outlined, is in the hands of my pastor, Tom Warren. I bid you a fond farewell.
Love, Melva Strauch
Taking advantage of Oregon's Death with Dignity legislation, Melva Strauch ended her life on Saturday, March 15, in Salem, Ore., while holding hands and singing hymns with members of her family. A memorial service was held in Pleasant Hill (Tenn.) Community UCC on Saturday, March 29. Prior to her death, she mailed this letter of explanation to her family and friends. It is reprinted here with her family's permission.