Positive Talk

Published on: February 22, 2017

What would you do if you knew the end was near?


This story begins with a telephone call from a friend who told me his wife had been diagnosed with liver cancer. I know it was hard for Tim to call with such bad news because I could hear it in his voice. But he also knew that I would care, and he felt it was important to share this load with someone.

The bright side, at that time, was they were going to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion. Surely, the fine doctors at such a prestigious facility would be able to help her.

He said his wife was in good spirits and ready to fight for life. That didn’t surprise me because Jane was a fighter. Just over five years earlier, she fought breast cancer and  won. In fact, we had just recently talked about how the five years had come and gone. During those five years, Jane had accomplished much. Among her credits are helping her youngest child graduate from college with honors and being there to help their daughter when their grandchild was born. During those five years, Jane also rose through the ranks of an international organization to become an international director. I don’t believe Jane wasted one minute in those past five years; she made the most of every moment of her life.

Although what the Mayo Clinic doctors practice may sometimes look like magic, they are human and could do only so much. When Jane and Tim left the Mayo Clinic, the best medical estimate of her remaining time was two weeks. The good news—if you can have good news in such a situation— was that with medication she would be relatively free from pain and would be able to continue to live life with few restrictions almost to the end. Tim said that when she returned home, she immediately got busy organizing her final affairs. She went to the funeral home and made all of the arrangements. She organized the papers in her home so that insurance claims could be handled with a minimum of effort. She called a family council and asked that her children and grandchildren spend one last weekend with her while she is still strong enough to enjoy it. Probably one of the hardest things she did was to write several notes of goodbye to long-time friends.

I know this may sound sad for a positive-attitude column, but I think that in a world that is so short of heroes, people like Jane are shining lights—heros of the first degree. For her, the two weeks passed and she still defied the odds. At that time, I believed that death would not come until she was ready—until she had completed the tasks she set for herself.

I am proud and privileged to have had this lady as a friend. The way she approached her first cancer was a portrait in courage. Her five years were not lived in the shadow of fear that cancer might return, but rather as a celebration of the present —making each minute count. What a privilege it was to watch Jane put a lifetime of living into the first five years and the time she was granted with the second bout. She approached the end as though it were a beginning — never looking back and always looking forward.

How would you react if someone told you that you had only 30 days to live? Could you, and would you, handle it with the same dignity that Jane did? The truth is that none of us know how much time we have left; it might be measured in years or in minutes. Maybe it’s not even important how much time we have left, but rather what we do with that time.

William Hodges is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. He also hosts an interview-format television program, Spotlight on Government, on the Tampa Bay Community Network, that airs Mondays at 8 p.m. (Bright House channel 639, Verizon channel 30) and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. (BH channel 638, Verizon channel 36). The shows can also be viewed at  Phone: 813-641-0816. Email:  Website: