Why I Find Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Final Wishes So Disturbing

Photo: Bob Crandall / Shutterstock.com
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in middle age, sits in front of a microphone wearing a grey suit, listening intently
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I don't know how Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, except that her death was caused by complications from Pancreatic Cancer, which she had been battling since 2009. She also had colon cancer in 1999 and cancerous nodules removed from one of her lungs in 2018.

In other words, Justice Ginsburg — lovingly called RBG by so many of her fans and admirers — kicked cancer's butt over and over and over again for 21 years — until the age of 87. She died on Friday, September 18, 2020. After everything she gave to the world, all of her dedication to seeing justice served and the Constitution of the United States upheld, I hope our beloved Notorious RBG knew how much we loved her. 

But based upon one of her final, last wishes I'm afraid Justice Ginsburg wasn't completely content at the end of her life — and that breaks my heart. Honestly, it disturbs me.

It is reported that Justice Ginsburg told her granddaughter, Clara Spera, that she hopes President Trump won't be allowed to replace her on the Supreme Court, dictating, "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

I'm disturbed that she couldn't rest easy in her final days. I'm disturbed that she worried about the fate of our nation rather than focusing on her family and peaceful passage. But I guess that's what made her a hero to so many.

Justice was her life — it wasn't just a career. 

I can only imagine how Justice Ginsburg's children and grandchildren felt hearing these final wishes.

I know, on a personal level, how important it is that the person you loved be remembered, and that their memory can serve as an inspiration. 

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Less than two months ago, I lost one of my own parents after a long illness. My stepfather, Tom, who raised my brother and me (and his own two sons as well), passed away due to complications from COPD at the age of 81. 

Losing Tom was crushing, and it still is. He and my mother lived next door to my husband, kids and me for many years, and he was a daily presence for the vast majority of my life. One of the greatest comforts to me since his passing is in knowing that Tom was able to pass on his own terms. He was home, with my mom and the dogs by his side, and comfortable.

I know that Tom felt the world would be OK without him. He knew we'd miss him a lot, but he also knew that he had taught us all well and that we'd continue his legacy of being a good citizen and serving our communities.

He also knew we were happy. The night that he passed away, a group of us kids and grandkids gathered on my parents' back porch and just talked and spent time together.

Tom was inside, resting, and it makes me happy to know that he could hear all of our voices as he prepared to take his last breath. I think he knew we would all be OK and that his legacy would live on. 

I hope that Justice Ginsburg had a similarly peaceful passing, surrounded by love, knowing she changed the world.

For so many of us, RBG's death is different from the death any other leader or Supreme Court Justice. 

The moment I heard the news, my heart sunk. When I told my mom, she flopped onto the couch and covered her face. A few hours later, the phrase "No. No. No." trended on Twitter. Nobody wants to believe she's gone.

I think we all, as a nation, were pulling for her to survive to the end of President Trump's term. Not just because we wanted to protect her seat on the bench, but because we wanted to protect her.

She was a symbol of hope. A tiny woman, frail and elderly, she seemed to be hanging in there and fighting for every day she was able to serve on the Supreme Court. So many of us joked about how we would do anything we could to protect her. A Washington Post columnist even offered a kidney or blood, and we all knew it was only partially a joke. 

Justice Ginsburg was a gift from another time. A reminder of how things used to be — a living model of how we wish things could be again. 

RBG personified integrity and strength of character. She used every gift she had in order to do what was right, standing up for herself and for justic, and fighting for the right to be heard — not just for herself, but for all women. And she did it all while wearing a delicate lace collar over her SCOTUS robes.

Justice Ginsburg was boldly herself, unafraid of what any of us thought of her. She was "best buddies" with the opposition, fellow Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The two of them spent every New Year's Eve together and traveled together many times over the years. They even rode an elephant together in India.

It's hard to imagine, in today's political climate, anybody wanting to ride an elephant with someone with whom they so fervently disagree, but Justice Ginsburg did it.

One might think that that this is all a lesson in how we are supposed to accept each other's differences and come together in her memory. But I don't think that's what RBG would want.

Justice Ginsburg didn't accept Donald Trump for who he was.

In fact, she spoke quite harshly about him as a candidate 2016, telling The New York Times, “I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president ... For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”

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She later apologized for that statement, calling the remarks "inappropriate" and "incautious", but one couldn't help but sense that she didn't so much regret saying those things as she regretted saying them on the record.

I believe Justice Ginsburg was right in apologizing, and it seems President Trump has forgiven her. His statement, given seemingly off-the-cuff after a rally in Minnesota, upon learning that she had passed was uncharacteristically genuine, cogent and heartfelt, saying, "She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman...I'm sad to hear that."

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We have lost more than a feminist icon and a great intellect. We have lost our North star, our beacon of truth and goodness. 

I wish I could say that we will do our best to carry on her work, but there's only so much we can do. She held one of the most important positions in this country, and none of us can take her place. We don't even get a voice in deciding who replaces her — or when.

And she knew that. She knew when she dictated that powerful statement to her granddaughter that the Republicans would do anything they could to get a new conservative justice on the bench — despite leaders saying, in 2016 and in 2018, that they wouldn't approve any nominees in an election year after the primaries.

RBG clearly fought to stick around and serve the public as long as she could.

And we need to try, too. 

Senator McConnell wasted no time drafting a statement on the very day RBG died making clear that he would allow a nominee to be put before the Senate before the election. He didn't even let us mourn our loss before rubbing in our faces that he didn't care what he said in 2016, this nomination to replace her would move forward.  

And we should waste no time in redoubling our efforts to vote McConnell and all his cronies out in November.

In honor of Justice Ginsburg's life and her final wishes, Crooked Media, with the help of Pod Save America, promoted "Get Mitch or Die Trying", a fundraiser dedicated to raising money to support the campaigns of thirteen candidates across twelve states where the organizers believe Democrats have the best opportunities to flip seats.

The effort raised $2 million within two hours, and, at the writing of this article, raised over $13 million overnight

In a year like 2020, and after losing someone as iconic and important as RBG, it's no surprise people want to give. We feel helpless.

But we're not, really.

We can't all be RBG, but we can all do something. Donating money is a great start, and so is fundraising. There are also lots of ways to get involved in local politics and local races being decided in November. Figure out what matters to you, and then find a way to do everything you can to help make it happen. 

Like RBG, we need to keep fighting. 

I just hope, wherever RBG is now, that she is resting peacefully and knows how much we all admired her. I also hope she knows that we will do everything we can to be sure her final wishes were honored. 

We won't forget you, Justice Ginsburg. Thank you for everything you gave this nation, and what your legacy will teach us for generations.

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Joanna Schroeder is a feminist writer and media critic whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, Time, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, BuzzFeed, Esquire, Vox, and more. Follow her on Twitter for more.