The funeral for J.J. Hanson, an outspoken assisted suicide opponent, was celebrated Thursday. He was remembered for his strength, faith, and determination.
Hanson died of brain cancer on Saturday at the age of 36. He is survived by his wife, Kristen, and his sons James and Lucas.
“He [J.J.] was one of the most optimistic persons I’ve met in my life,” said Fr. Joselin Berkmans during the homily at Hanson’s Mass of Christian Burial, held Jan. 4 at the Church of St. Anthony of Padua in Yulan, N.Y., about 90 miles northwest of New York City.
“What a great spirit he had. He never worried about his life, but always wanted to be the hope for all who were around him,” Fr. Berkmans continued.
Hanson's death was felt by many in the New York area, including Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany.
“As we mourn the loss of our friend and fellow advocate, James “J.J.” Hanson, we choose not to focus on the great sorrow surrounding his death,” Bishop Scharfenberger said on Twitter.
“Instead, today, we choose to focus on the great good J.J. did during his time on earth, especially during the past few years of his life when his battle with cancer became for him an opportunity to show the strength of his faith and the power of love and determination,” Bishop Scharfenberger continued.
In 2014, Hanson was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a terminal brain cancer, the same illness that led Brittany Maynard to take her own life in California three years ago, and given four months to live.
While given a life expectancy of only a few months, Hanson was surrounded by a positive support group and a loving family. Hanson said that during his darkest moment, he might have opted for assisted suicide, but instead chose to pursue alternative treatments. He lived three years longer than expected.
“Here I am three years later, enjoying the arrival of our second son and living life to the fullest,” Hanson said in October 2017.
Throughout his battle with cancer, Hanson became a passionate opponent of physician-assisted suicide and was the president of the Patients Rights Action Fund, an organization which fights efforts to legalize assisted suicide.
He was also actively involved with the New York State Catholic Conference and the New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide, where he fought against the passage of a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide in the state of New York.
Hanson additionally served as a former aide to Govs. Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson.
“He outlived that death sentence by more than three years, giving hope and inspiration to thousands of people during that time,” remembered Kathleen M. Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, according to the conference website.
“J.J. lived his motto: ‘Every day is a gift, and you can’t ever let that go,’” Gallagher continued.
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