My dear friend of many decades Elfi Rice died on July 15, 2020. Thankfully, she lived in Washington state where medical aid in dying is available. Given the strong woman that she was, it would have been such an insult if she hadn’t been able to control her destiny at the end, had she still been living in Minnesota.
I came to know Elfi in the late 1970s through our shared interest in Rottweilers while I was working as a veterinary tech and groomer. She raised many champions over the years and I was lucky that she allowed me to own several. The dogs were just the start of our friendship.
Elfi was an amazing lady. She came to Minnesota from Germany with her family as a child as displaced persons during WWII. As an adult, Elfi thrived as a successful business woman. She was smart, funny, well traveled, independent and charismatic – she could make a new friend within 90 seconds. She could make any person she met feel special. My life was enriched by knowing her.
Ultimately, she joined family in Washington state in the early 2000s. I was fortunate enough to enjoy her hospitality on Vashon Island many times. Her home had a deck that overlooked Puget Sound and Seattle, a perfect escape site for a prairie girl. We shared great walks on the shore at low tide, long dog walks in the woods and partied on that deck. She loved hosting and sharing a good time.
For her 70th birthday, she invited 27 close friends and family members to join her on an Alaskan cruise. Elfi orchestrated so many moments of joy, camaraderie and great life. She engaged everyone in her interests and broadened my world. She loved a good party and the more the better. That was the kind of person she was.
In 2015, she received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. I remember feeling great comfort in that moment that Washington authorized medical aid in dying. I later learned that Elfi had volunteered her time to help get that law passed.
Elfi fought her cancer valiantly, endured too many chemo treatments to count, radiation and cutting edge treatments. She submitted to every medical treatment option available to her. Throughout, she did not let cancer stand in the way of her living life. She continued to travel, raise Rottweilers and party. Every year, she took a road trip to her cabin in Minnesota. I was able to see her at her cabin and several times in Vashon during this time. I was honored to shave her head during her first chemo treatments. I am a groomer afterall.
Early in 2020, her oncologist proposed restarting chemo. She was tired of all the treatments which were no longer enhancing her quality of life. She said, “Enough.” Knowing medical aid in dying was an option for her allowed Elfi to live her last years more freely. She had been proactive, while still submitting to treatments, in ensuring her doctors would prescribe to her under Washington state’s Death With Dignity Act. It was time to move forward.
On the morning of July 15, 2020, with her family and dogs beside her, Elfi availed herself of Washington’s aid-in-dying option. This grand lady who lived with dignity, class, charm and humor was able to leave on her own terms. She lived life to the fullest. Thankfully she lived in a state that trusted her to decide when it was time to go.
*This is shared with permission of Elfi’s family.