Supporter Spotlight: Serene Meshel-Dillman
The award-winning filmmaker’s new documentary includes Compassion & Choices storytellers in an expression of gratitude for being able to choose a more peaceful death.
by Sonja Aliesch
October 21, 2021
“I saw the joy that it brought my mom to have control at the end of her life. My hope is to show through hers and other stories that death is not something to be afraid of, that it’s a wonderfully humane option,” Serene explains about her upcoming documentary, Take Me Out Feet First. It is her third film, slated for completion in the fall of 2022.
The title is a nod to Serene’s mother, who died of cancer in 2017 using California’s medical aid-in-dying law and appears in the film: “She always said that the only way she’d ever leave her home was feet first,” Serene says. “In her lifetime, my mother had been a social worker for terminally ill cancer patients, and over the prior six years she watched my sister-in-law slowly and painfully die of colorectal cancer. She knew the fate that her own diagnosis implied and did not want to put her family through the stress of watching her suffer, nor did she want to endure the pain or the poor quality of life that treatment would cause.”
Serene was introduced to Compassion & Choices while working on her previous documentary, The 5th Dementia, about the life-changing impact music has for a group of musicians living with neurodegenerative disease. With the help of Compassion & Choices, she has connected with more than two dozen storytellers for this current project. “Each story is unique because each subject, and what they are dealing with, is different. People ask me, ‘Isn’t this topic sad and depressing?’ I find it to be the opposite. I am inspired by the strength, insight and presence of mind that each person I am interviewing possesses. What I hope to show in the documentary is that there can be happiness at what is usually a dark part of life, and that it comes from having control and the choice to not suffer in pain at the end.”