Guilt & Truth; I can’t separate you two.

I’m writing about the process my family underwent in dealing with my grandma’s terminal cancer diagnosis. My project is going to end up with a policy-change orientation, advocating for the legalization (or at least decriminalization) of physician-assisted suicide for patients with no other options, but will mostly take the form of a personal essay from my perspective as a seven-year-old. My worries with this are twofold: I’m not sure how many of the “memories” that I have of this period are real and I don’t want to whore out my grandmother in some heartless politically motivated sob story.

Naturally this was an unpleasant time during which I and my family did unpleasant things, but I’m running into an issue concerning a fear of gossip. I feel out of place revealing the lowest of the lows which my family (my mother in particular) reached. I feel like I’m instrumentalizing something which should be kept private. My fear keeps taking the form of the following question:


Would they approve of my decision not only to share the ugly details of my grandmother’s slow and miserable death, but also to use that as a means to push an agenda? I feel dirty just using the word agenda.

This is a somewhat familiar issue. Last year I took a 325 personal essay class aiming to use it as a written therapy session. I think every essay (with the exception of one) I wrote was about a spectacularly failed relationship. (The other one was about a house where drugs were sold.) I never felt nearly as uncomfortable airing my dirty laundry in those essays as I do with this one. Maybe it was because I was entirely without a chance of redemption with the women whom I wrote about. I knew they would never read what I wrote anyway. I can’t quite get over that hump this time. How do I do what I want to do? At the very least, how can I rationalize exploiting the death of a person I loved?



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