Six years ago, John La Grange watched as Linda, his beloved wife of 38 years, succumbed to a slow, painful death from ovarian cancer at the age of 60. He’s never forgotten her agony, or his anguish over not being able to do anything about it.
So when La Grange, 66, of Solana Beach, California, was listening to the radio in his car several weeks ago and the topic of Brittany Maynard was brought up on a call-in show, it stopped him in his tracks.
Maynard, a 29-year-old woman who was terminally ill with brain cancer, captured the world’s attention earlier this fall when she announced she would end her life under Oregon’s death with dignity law. On Nov. 1, she took a fatal dose of barbiturates prescribed by a doctor in accordance with the law; her husband, Dan Diaz, and family were by her side.
The radio discussion of Maynard “immediately caught my attention,” La Grange, a retired commercial fisherman, tells PEOPLE. “This is an option I wish my wife would have had.”
He decided to go public with his views in a column published on Zécalo Public Square.
La Grange is a longtime member of Compassion & Choices, the advocacy organization Maynard and her family partnered with to promote and expand death with dignity laws nationwide.
“Brittany Maynard’s story has inspired more and more people like John La Grange to go public with their stories about the needlessly painful deaths of their loved ones,” says Sean Crowley, a spokesman for Compassion & Choices.
When Maynard’s mother Debbie Ziegler saw the column she wrote Crowley.
“John La Grange speaks so clearly and eloquently in this article,” she writes.
In his column, La Grange wrote that one radio listener called into the show to say he had lost his wife to heart disease. The man opined that Diaz should have talked Maynard out of her decision to end her life.
“The caller said that he would give anything to have one more hour with his wife,” La Grange writes in his column. “I would give anything to not have experienced the last week of my wife’s life.”
La Grange’s memories of the end of her life were filled with her losing her mind and control over her bodily functions.
“I went through a very long process with my wife’s cancer and no one told us how bad it would truly be at the end,” La Grange tells PEOPLE. “If she had had the chance to end her life so that she wouldn t be in so much pain at the very end, she would have taken it.”
The devoted husband and father of four says Diaz is fortunate to have been spared the additional suffering a prolonged period of dying would have caused.
“Brittany gave her husband a gift,” says La Grange. “To have a person you love so much suffering so badly and not being able to do anything about it is very hard. He didn t have to see Brittany go through that.”
Although La Grange and his wife shared so many great moments together, it’s the final moments that he thinks about even when he’s asleep.
“When you know someone for a long period of time and then that relationship ends – it just seems like the last times that you’re seeing that person is what is going to stand out in your mind more than the earlier experiences,” he explains.
“I don t want to remember it but it’s there in my mind. When I dream about her, she is always sick. But then I wake up and remember all of the love and amazing times we shared together.”