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Volunteer Spotlight: Yasuyo Tanii

“Since I was a child I always believed, naively, that when to finish your life would be entirely your choice. But as I got older, I realized that’s not true,” says Compassion & Choices volunteer . “You can be forced to live with excruciating pain. I think it seems so wrong, illogical and cruel.”

Yasuyo, a retired flight attendant with Japan Airlines and real estate agent, lived in Tokyo until she was 35 before moving to Honolulu, Hawai’i, with her husband and then settling in Portland, Oregon. Stories she heard throughout the years about people’s difficulties in dying only made her beliefs about end-of-life autonomy stronger.

“My father had Alzheimer’s disease,” she recalls. “He wasn’t himself anymore, and I knew this was not how he would want to live. I hoped for a way to relieve everyone of this suffering, but there was none. That was a hard time, heartbreaking.”

Recently at a barbecue, Yasuyo ran into a friend she hadn’t seen for over a decade who works for Compassion & Choices. “When she told me about it I said, ‘Wow, that’s exactly what I’m interested in.’ So she asked me if I wanted to volunteer. I had never volunteered, but I thought that this was something I wanted to be part of.”

Yasuyo now helps out in the Portland office with administrative tasks and other duties. “Basically I’m doing whatever nobody else wants to do or has time for, and I’m happy to do it,” she says. “It feels liberating. Whenever I come into the office, I have no idea what I’ll end up doing, and that’s fun for me.”

Oregon supporters: Come to Compassion & Choices Oregon’s signature fall fundraising event October 17 featuring jazz legend Chuck Israels! Click here for more details and to register.


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