Ali Tate Cutler recently found out that her grandmother was choosing to receive euthanasia.
Cutler filmed her last visit with her grandmother on TikTok to destigmatize discussions about death.
This is the story of what happened when she went viral, as told to Charissa Cheong.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Ali Tate Cutler, a 32-year-old model and self-love coach in Austin, Texas. It has been edited for length and clarity.
A month and a half ago, I found out that my grandmother had stage 4 ovarian cancer.
When we were informed as a family, we wanted to be extremely supportive of whatever decision my grandmother would make surrounding her health. The doctors presented her with a number of options, none of which would result in healing. Eventually, she decided to receive medical assistance in dying, which has been legal in Canada since 2016.
Both euthanasia and medically assisted suicide are legal in Canada. Euthanasia is when a doctor or nurse practitioner injects a substance into a patient that kills them. Medically assisted suicide is when a doctor or nurse practitioner prescribes a drug to a patient that they can take to die.
She hasn’t set a date for it yet, but last week, she gave me the opportunity to go and visit her one last time.
Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do. While we were together, I asked her whether we could make some videos to post on my TikTok account, where I sometimes share life updates, because I thought it would be useful for people to hear her talking about death.
The videos blew up and have received more than 17 million views altogether, but with them came backlash, online debate, and a whole load of questions.
I was accused of using my grandmother’s story for ‘clout’ when I posted my videos
My grandmother, whom I call Bubbie, is the grandparent I have the closest relationship with. I’ve always had a great connection with her, and I admire her for sticking so strongly to her opinions.
I was glad when she agreed to do some videos with me, even though she didn’t understand how social media worked. I suggested that we do an interview where I ask her some questions about how she was feeling moving toward the actual day, and we filmed some other clips of the two of us.
I wanted to show people what I saw in her, which was a woman dying well. She wasn’t scared, and she wasn’t dreading it. I wanted to document what it looked like to die with ease and not fear.
After I posted the TikTok videos, I noticed that they were going viral quickly, and that’s when I saw they were sparking some controversy. Euthanasia is illegal in several US states and countries around the world, and a few people had moral or religious objections to my Bubbie’s choices, which they voiced in my TikTok comments.
My videos also went viral on Twitter after several people screenshotted them and posted them there. Some people accused me of using my grandma’s story to get clout and go viral. Many of them asked questions like, “Why would you post something like this?”
My question is, why not? We’re in an age where we talk about anything and everything on social media, so why is it then when I want to talk about someone’s final moments, that’s not OK?
I think that particularly in the West, death is such a taboo topic, so my videos made people uncomfortable. But even if some people questioned my intentions, and going viral exposed me to the more negative side of humanity, I’m hoping that other people to come away from my posts with new thoughts about dying, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide.
I’d love to see more people choosing to be open about death on social media
On TikTok, I’d say about 95% of comments were positive, and I noticed a lot of people saying my posts inspired them to treasure their older relatives more.
My family is pleased that the videos also sparked a conversation about medically assisted suicide and euthanasia, as online commenters who saw my video began to discuss their views on it and whether they thought governments should be involved in people’s decisions surrounding death.
It’s even helped me on a personal level. While I had some reservations about the topic before this, it helped me process my grief to hear my Bubbie’s thoughts and the thoughts of thousands of supportive commenters who shared their own stories about their dying loved ones.
I also feel honored and blessed to have videos of my grandmother from this part of her life. I’ll always be able to look back at these videos and say, “That’s my grandma,” and reflect on the beauty and shortness of life.
I would love to see more conversations like this taking place on social media. I want to see more videos of people in their final moments talking about the lessons they’ve learned and what they think will happen to their consciousness when they’re dead. I think it would help the rest of us prepare for and understand death a little bit more.
I hope that anyone who is moving through a period of loss in their life can refer back to these videos I made with my grandma and that it will inspire them to receive that parting knowledge from their elders.
There’s no better way to honor them in their journey than by hearing their story.
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