My 91 year old beloved friend, Ruth Goodman, died yesterday. Over the last fifty years, Ruth and I had grown even closer and more important to each other than we were in the early days of protesting the Vietnam War together. So my loss is great, but it is mitigated by remembering Ruth’s dedicated activism in several political movements, including the Death with Dignity movement.
I was privileged to spend the last five days of her life with Ruth, and when I wrote her obituary shortly before her death, she insisted I include the important anticipated fact that, right to the end, she was in control of her death. Below, I have posted her obituary and the letter to newspaper editors that she wrote to be sent after her death. That letter is just one of the ways that Ruth’s dedication to justice lives on.
When Ruth made her decision about the time and manner of her death, she was following a life-long commitment to acting on principle. It is one thing to say you will take your own life when the time is right. It's quite another to do it. For Ruth the right to die with dignity was as important as other civil and human rights for which she had campaigned. It was my privilege to witness Ruth's steadfast determination to be in control of when and how she died, right to the very end. Here is the letter she wrote to newspaper editors the day before she died:
"I am a ninety-one-year-old woman who has decided to end my life in the very near future. I do not have a terminal illness; I am simply old, tired and becoming dependent, after a wonderful life of independence. People are allowed to choose the right time to terminate their animals' lives and can be with them and provide assistance and comfort right to the end. Surely, the least we can do is allow people the same rights to choose how and when to end their lives. By the time people read this, I will have died. I am writing this letter to advocate for a change in the law so that all will be able to make this choice."
RUTH GOODMAN OBITUARY
Ruth Goodman has led a life of resistance to war and a commitment to the environment and social justice. Her family fled Eastern Europe at the turn of the last century to escape war and anti-Semitism, and she grew up in a union household. In 1940 Ruth married Henry Goodman, and found a job in the shipyards. As a clerical worker, Ruth was paid $20 dollars a week, and when she discovered that welders made $1.25 an hour she joined the wave of women's participation in wartime industrial production.
After the war, Ruth and Henry moved to Washington State, where Ruth gave birth to two sons, Michael and Dean. Soon she joined the American Friends Service Committee in organizing annual peace marches, and picketing the Boeing Company in protest of their manufacturing aircraft used in the Vietnam War.
In 1966, worried about their two sons being eligible for the draft in a few years, Ruth and Henry left the United States to settle in Vancouver. But Ruth's activism didn't stop. She and Henry offered U.S. draft resisters a safe haven in their home and Ruth volunteered at the War Resisters' support office.
Ruth's participation in political campaigns was not confined to international issues. Through her personal experience of two illegal abortions in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Ruth developed a heightened awareness of the importance of a woman's right to reproductive choice, including abortion. Her strong belief in the right to legal, safe access to abortion led her to be among the first volunteers for the Everywoman's Health Centre, an abortion clinic.
Ruth's commitment to justice remained strong to the end of her life. She has been a staunch advocate of the Death with Dignity social justice movement. True to her principles, with the support of her children and a host of devoted friends, at the age of ninety-one, Ruth chose to end her life on Februrary 2nd, 2013. She is survived by Michael Goodman and his partner Sharon Sjerven, Dean Goodman and his wife, Janna Levitt, as well as grandsons, Henry, Eric and Gabriel Gooman.
To carry on his parent's commitments to justice, Michael Goodman has established the Ruth and Henry Goodman Fund for Social and Economic Justice. Instead of flowers, donations may be made to that organization. http://ruthandhenrygoodmanfund.com/.