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A Promise to Her’: Brittany Maynard’s Family Fulfills Sacred Vow

Image: Brittany Maynard

Brittany Maynard and Dan Diaz were married Sept. 29, 2012 in California's wine country. The ceremony was officiated by Adrian Diaz, Dan's brother. Maynard ended her own life Nov. 1 by using Oregon's Death With Dignity law.

The text came from the bedroom above. “Are you coming up?” asked his brother, Dan Diaz.

Adrian Diaz felt nervous about heading to the second story where his sister-in-law, Brittany Maynard, 29, was about to purposefully swallow a prescribed, lethal medication. They had grown close since her diagnosis of terminal brain cancer.

He climbed the stairs on Nov. 1 in the Portland, Oregon home Maynard had rented with her husband, Dan, so she could access that state’s Death With Dignity law. Adrian saw Brittany in her bed. She immediately rose and stepped to him. She hugged him, said she loved him, then gave the Bay Area lobbyist a solemn task.

“If you’re willing, I really feel it’s important to get the law changed in California. We shouldn’t have had to move from California.”

His answer was instant: “Absolutely. I’ll do everything I can.” The words made her smile.

Maynard asked the same of her mother and of Dan. After forging those pacts, she took her prescribed medications. Five minutes later, she was asleep. Thirty minutes later, she was gone.

“It was a promise to her,” Adrian recalled in an interview with NBC News. He works in the government relations office at the University of California, Berkeley. He also officiated their wedding. “We all believed she deserved to die at home in the state where she was born, in the city where she shared a home with her husband.”

Brittany Maynard’s husband: Her death was ‘peaceful’ 5:19

On Thursday, nearly three months after her death, Dan and Adrian Diaz were busy fulfilling their pledge, meeting with a New Jersey legislator to push for the introduction of a death-with-dignity bill there. On Sunday, the brothers also met with a New York lawmaker to pitch the same action.

Currently, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana and New Mexico authorize aid in dying. In the aftermath of Maynard's massively viral campaign to expand laws for people like her, legislators in at least 13 other states and Washington, D.C. have revealed plans to introduce similar bills.

For the Diaz brothers, the campaign trail is fresh. Mourning has consumed the family, and still does. But now, they are feeling her presence all over again as they make their case to lawmakers.

In those meetings, Dan Diaz, 43, often pulls out photos showing the famous smile of his late bride, or images of a happy couple who already knew their time together was ticking down.

"Her instructions to me were to see this through - and pride is what it comes down to," Dan Diaz told NBC News. "When I find myself talking to a legislator, I'm proud of what she started.

"People have referred to, 'Oh, she was courageous.' Yes, I guess. But that was just Brittany being Brittany. That was nothing out of the ordinary. She would speak up for something that she didn't think was right and wanted to change.

"So the emotion for me is: this is a legacy for her. She began this conversation, one voice triggering all this. Now, I'm proud to bring it to fruition," added Diaz, who remains on temporary leave from his job as an executive in the consumer packaged goods industry.

In their stops so far, the Diaz brothers still feel momentum, they say, that she created with a series of globally viewed videos, produced months and weeks before her death. Dan says he looks forward to speaking with politicians who oppose his views: "Hey, maybe I'm missing something. It's like: Convince me. I want to hear it. But so far, most of their arguments are based on fear, and that's not any way we should make any public policy.

"People are afraid to talk about the topic of death."

And tactically, the brothers believe Maynard was right about the political battleground she mapped in her final minutes.

"As California goes, so goes the nation," Adrian Diaz said.

"California, if we get that one on the books, and if we can get New York, it's kind of a domino effect," Dan Diaz added. "The other states will recognize that all of the fears raised by the opposition, about slippery slopes and all that, the populations will rise and say: No, there isn't that concern here."

According to a HealthDay/Harris Poll released in December, Americans support by a 5-to-1 margin (74 percent in favor, 14 percent against), that terminally ill adults with no option for recovery should be able to access aid in dying.

In California, two state lawmakers have announced that they expect to file a death-with-dignity bill before the end of January.

"Any of us could find ourselves in this predicament," Dan Diaz said. "Get the laws on the books and let the decision be between the patient working with their doctors.

"It's certainly not something a legislator or a politician or even a church official should weigh in on. That is part of our message."

Brittany Maynard's Call For Action 1:00