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Note: Alison Clay Duboff is a volunteer with End of Life Choices California. Her husband used medical aid in dying on August 3, 2021. Here are some of her reflections after going through the experience.

As sentient beings, we attempt to find meaning in loss. We desperately search for celestial answers to the mysterious reasons “why” to assuage our pain. 

Occasionally a purpose, an enlightened drive, arises from the ashes of grief, bringing meaning to the unimaginable. And that is the true gift.  

Through the loss of my terminally-ill husband, I found that my bestowment was writing. Be it scratching words across a page, speaking into my telephone when the words hit me at inconvenient moments, or sitting at my computer and letting my fingers loose amongst the letters on the keyboard. 

Writing not only brought me immeasurable pleasure and release, but it took on a life of its own and began helping others in my same situation as I shared my innermost, deep, dark, and light emotions to my community online.

This newfound vehicle of helping others morphed into being compelled to help as many people as I could and that is how I became a mouthpiece for personal choice and a volunteer for End of Life Choices California. I’m pleased I strongly encouraged the agency to start a bereavement group for families that used medical aid in dying.

A few times every week, people will stop me on the street and ask me if I am “Alison,” the lady who lost her husband. My collection of words has reached people near, far, and have brought comfort and understanding or a sense of mutual understanding, of being heard, and for me this is the greatest legacy I could have ever imagined or asked for. 

I have learned that the simple gift of a hug from a stranger, or to a stranger, is a beautiful thing in and of itself; surprising and deeply fulfilling, I call it, “humanity.”

I’ve learned repeatedly during my period of grief that people need and seek connectedness and are able to exchange energy even when the topic is uncomfortable.

We are slowly coming out of the dark ages of denial and into the light where we accept the ominous elephant in the corner of the room: Everyone will die, yet when those we love pass away, we are taken aback, surprised and shocked. 

I yearn to help others recognize that the day, the year, or the manner of death might be shocking and unexpected, yet death will come often when we least expect it, too often when we are completely unprepared for that inevitability. But with exception, and if fortunate enough, like my husband, one can choose the day, date, and time of death.   

I see the inevitability of death hiding behind the curtain on opening night. Death is there waiting backstage for the curtain to be pulled apart and to make its grand entrance. If we can learn to entertain the notion that our time on earth is transient, I believe we will live the remaining balance of moments in a much more gratitude-filled existence.


Alison Clay Duboff is an active real estate agent in Manhattan Beach. She’s the author of Living with Veracity, Dying with Dignity, a book about the experiences with her husband. The book is available on Amazon.

EOLCCA manages a strong team of experienced volunteers throughout the state. We are available to help individuals and their familes in California, free of charge, with information and support regarding all end-of-life planning and choices.  This includes medical aid in dying through the California End of Life Option Act and bereavement support and resources. Find comprehensive information on our user-friendly website. To support our work, or request a speaker, please visit ways to help.  Thank you.

End of life choices California

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