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Michael Rielly

You're going to die the way you live

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Michael Rielly

You're going to die the way you live

CNN.com

By William Lamb

April 8, 2009

EXCERPT

(LifeWire) -- When George Dello of San Diego was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told he had at best five months to live, he didn't immediately begin the chemotherapy treatments his doctor recommended. Instead, he and his wife, Pam, drove up the California coast and spent a week among the redwoods north of San Francisco. "These trees are 5 feet wide and 150 feet tall," said Dello, 43. "They still have another 150 feet to grow and are going to stick around for another 1,000 years. When I thought about that, I'm just a flea on the bark. It's unbelievable." The trip offered Dello, who worked in the auto repossession business, and his wife a chance to come to terms with the diagnosis in August 2008, and to scratch the trip to the redwood forests off his life "to do" list while he was still relatively healthy.

He died four months later.

The idea that dying well is as important as living well gained cultural currency last year when Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, delivered a final lecture a month after learning that his pancreatic cancer had spread and was inoperable. The lecture was viewed millions of times on the Internet and adapted into a best-selling book. "We cannot change the cards we are dealt," Pausch, who died in July at age 47, told his audience, "just how we play the hand."

"Die the way you live"

It's easy, experts say, for terminally ill patients and their loved ones to focus so much on their medical care and other important practical matters, including funerals and wills, that a "good" death eludes them. Health permitting, a trip like the one Dello took with his wife can help, as can visits from friends and family. "You're going to die the way you live," says Fran Moreland Johns, a former hospice volunteer and author of "Dying Unafraid." "Laughter, music, all of the things that have been important in your life -- if you put them to work for making your end times better, you can actually affect your dying days."

"That's where Randy Pausch has set a wonderful example. He brought all of his skills to bear on living until the moment he died."

...

For friends and family

Friends and family can help tremendously simply by showing up, says Kathy Brandt, vice president of professional leadership, consumer and caregiver services for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Often, she says, people worry so much about what to say to someone with a terminal illness -- or about saying the wrong thing -- that they just stay away. "We need to put aside our selfish fears," says Brandt. "That may sound a little harsh, but it's not really about us." One way to avoid saying the wrong thing is to steer clear of cliches, she says. "'God has a reason' or 'tomorrow will be another day' -- those kinds of things are trite, but they're also impersonal," says Brandt. "If the person wants to chat and talk, then just ask a question or two and let the person talk. If the person's not physically well enough to do a lot of talking, ask if they'd like to hear a story about something that happened at work, or saying, 'Would you like me to read a story to you?' It's all about figuring out where the person is at and meeting them where they are."

...

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Felix Estridge

Mike...thanks so much for sharing this. It is truly inspirational.

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1SantaClausVA

Excellent article - Thanks Santa Mike!

I had the honor to have a visitation with Randy Pausch, Jai, and their children his last Christmas. We got a family photo. I hope that it will give his children joy as the years come on.

They knew it was his last Christmas, but at the time, I had no idea who he was.

Only later did I hear his speech on YouTube and was amazed at the man I had met.

Everyone should hear it.

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Dutch Schrap

Randy's book "The Last Lecture" is one of my all time favorite books. One of my favorite parts of the book is when he mentions he keeps crayons on his desk, so when he smells them, it brings back memories to childhood. To this day - over a year later after reading the book - I keep three purple crayons, tied together, on my desk in my office to remember him. I chose purple crayons for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness.

Santa Paul - that must be one huge honor to be Santa for one great Hero. And I agree, every single person should read or listen to his book - or at least watch the "Last Lecture" - the actual lecture - on Youtube.

Everyone should live their life like Randy did at the end. It's amazing.

Edited by Santa Dutch

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Santa Dennis

Some very powerful and sobering material.

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Santa Mike P

Thanks for posting this.It makes me think of how fortunate I am to still be alive. God has His reasons for doing what He does in our lives. We are the ones who must take charge of the gifts we are given each day and use them to the fullest. There are times I forget about this and am very lax in using each day to show the power of life, prayer, and the power in life. This posting has made me reflect on this again and I know there are changes in my life I must start making each day. Thank you.

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Santa Trever

All great material to read,pause & think about, then DO. Do being the key word here.

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Nora

How true, how we live affects how we pass on.

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Santa Everett

Death is a subject we avoid but all face. Hope that when my time is up it is with dignity.

For some reason I had never come across Randy's story. I must purchase the book.

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Elf Gary

I for one do not avoid Death, that is like not wanting to take your next breath, it is all a part of the circle of life, i have always been introspective so i expect when my time comes i will be trying to gaze at what lies beyond.

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