My sister-in-law, Judy Perez, recently passed away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Her last days were tough on everyone close to her. There is no doubt that cancer sucks! Being around death is not a habit I want to develop; however, exposure to the physical, mental, and spiritual grit that accompanies many terminally-ill patients’ journeys can be impactful.
While sitting with Judy or eating lunch with my brother in the hospital cafeteria or spending time with my parents in the waiting room, I could not help but reflect on my life. Questions I do not normally mull over crept in and crowded the normal daily musings out. All kinds of questions arose.
- How do I want to die?
- When do I want to die?
- Where do I NOT want to die?
- Who will attend my funeral?
All these questions eventually led to more present-day concerns:
- Am I living my life with purpose or simply existing in busyness?
- Do those that I love know that I love them? How do I show them that I love them?
- Am I proud of who I have become? Am I proud of how I treat those I do not know?
- Can I be better? What do I have to do to be better?
- Am I happy? Why? Why not? What do I have to do to be happier?
- Are my wife and kids happy? Have I been the best husband and father I am capable of being?
The question I spent the most time on during my hours at MD Anderson was:
If today is my last day with my wife and children, what do I want them to know or hear from me?
The answer was different from day to day, but some things always made the list. I started calling this my Last Words Top Ten List. I never shared it with anyone because it always seemed a bit morbid, but not sharing it now seems selfish. When you leave things unsaid, they are just that…unsaid. Some things are too important to be left unsaid. Below is my current Last Words Top Ten List:
- I love you wholeheartedly and unconditionally – please tell those you love “I love you!” each and every day.
- I am proud of you, and I am proud to stand beside you.
- Learn who you are by trying new things, putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, and failing…A LOT.
- Be kind and hopeful and do not give up on humanity – God and Jesus and a lot of others have not given up on us.
- Your character and your time are priceless so protect them by doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong.
- Work hard and do hard work – anything worth doing is worth doing with excellence; but remember, everyone as a different standard for excellence.
- Please try to make your spoken words count and do not waste them on speculation and gossip.
- Life is supposed to be lived and risk is inherent to living – always weigh consequences and likelihoods before being bold or humble.
- Live your faith and love your country. We are all broken souls just trying to do our best.
- Relish your present, but learn from your past. Plan for your future.
What would you add to your Last Words Top Ten List? Write them down. Share them. Be them.