Mortality Part 3

Dave JohnsonJuly 2007.

My friend Dave had a nagging injury in his arm that didn’t seem to heal. His doctor grew suspicious and he was quickly diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The average life expectancy from time of diagnosis is two years.

Dave made it almost three and a half.

The fact that Dave was a wonderful, great man, a friend of many, made his passing hard.

But what made it even more intense for me personally was the fact that Dave and I were the same age. His son was the same age as, and friends with, my son. His daughter the same age as, and friends with, my daughter.

Unlike so many tragedies which we can differentiate from ourselves because it happened “over there” or because the people involved are different from us in some comforting way, there was no geographic or demographic distance between Dave and I.

When I spoke at Dave’s funeral in November, 2010 at the age of 46, any residual sense of invincibility and immortality was purged from my life forever.

But because of the way Dave handled his sickness and death, my faith and hope were strengthened.

Among the things I shared at his funeral:
Despite all the work on genetics and anti-aging foods, drugs and fitness programs, we are all aging and we will all die. You and I will die. So, in the words of a fellow speaker “we might as well get on with the only pressing business there is: figuring out how to die well.” If something can help us with that, it’s worth looking at; if it can’t it’s a diversion from what really matters.

My friend died well. He instilled in me a desire to die well.

I’ve increasingly come to believe that finishing well is a worthy goal which makes us live more wisely. It moves me to action, calls me to risk more, to express my love more, to think long term.

I have my own ideas of what it means to finish well.

What will it look like for you to finish well?

3 thoughts on “Mortality Part 3”

  1. I already know how I’m going to finish in it will be well…
    I shall not be a burden to society….
    I shall not be a burden to my family….
    Give me a call I will not go the way Dave did….
    Nor will I go the way my dad did….
    In and out of the hospital over 40 times Over a four-year period coming out worse every single time and then he went in….
    Through the wonderful Miracle of modern science we prolong death with Pharmaceuticals Way Beyond normal life expectancy.

    I will know when I cannot contribute anymore….
    I will know when I have nothing left to add to my story….
    I will know I have nothing to look forward to except my time with my Heavenly Father…
    I will know when to say no and accept the fact that my day is done…
    I will know there is nothing I will do to prolong it!
    I will know when my day is done…

    Stacy Hill

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  2. I would argue that the only pressing business is not how to die well but how to live well.

    We are all going to die, most have no idea when or how, which makes it pretty hard to plan one’s demise. We all would like to think we will possess the necessary clarity of mind when the time comes, but the fact is we may go through significant mental health issues and/or cognitive decline and be unable to go out the way we want.

    On a practical level, you can do living wills, DNR’s, and of course a normal will. If you really want to do something helpful, clean your house of clutter and old crap now. Make an organized file folder with all your relevant accounts, documents, etc. and even put kids (if you have them) on the title of things like houses to make any transition as smooth as possible. Give your loved ones packages of photos and momentos now when everyone has clarity of thought. Keep the bureacratic issues you are leaving behind to a minimum after you have gone.

    I think the most pressing issue is to live well now, in whatever time we have remaining. Throw out the bucket lists. Be present. Enjoy who you are with, what you are doing, and wherever you are.

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