Recently, on a road trip to NH with Matthew for a haircut (yes, I travel 150 miles each way for my haircuts when I can find a day to get away), I had borrowed a Book on CD for us to listen to. I chose "The Last Lecture" by the late Professor Randy Pausch to get some insight on what his experiences surrounding his terminal illness were. Matthew was sitting next to me up front in the van reading his book when I put the first CD in. He looked up occassionaly, laughed appropriately without looking up from his pages, and listened while reading or under the pretense of reading.
I believe it was somewhere in the 2nd CD that Randy was sharing how he and his wife Jai, found out that his illness was terminal. The computer in the examining room where he awaited his doctor hadn't been logged off and he did some snooping, if you can call looking at your own records "snooping". He first found his blood work results, specifically tumor marker CA 19-9 whose level was almost 6 times above normal indicating metastasis, in his words "a death sentence". Moving on to his CT scan results he counted no less than 10 tumors on his liver when his doctor came into the room. Realizing that the news was broken he calmly explained to Jai that he would no longer be trying to save Randy's life. "What we're trying to do is extend the time Randy has left so he can have the highest quality of life."
That phrase stayed with me. Matthew even looked up and expressed that that is sort of what my work does: help people live the highest quality of Life in the time they have here on Earth.
Matthew then asked me: "Dad, if you were dying, would you tell us?" after a pause to consider my thoughts I answered that I was dying, just not like Professor Pausch. "Matthew, we're all dying, aren't we?" I offered, "From the moment we're born the reality of our mortality exists and the clock starts ticking. The only difference between me and you and Mr. Pausch is that he knew the cause and the general time-line of his death." The next question naturally followed "Would you want to know?" again, being the pain-in-the-neck question answerer that I can be I said: "I do know...just not exactly when or why."
What followed was a conversation on living Life with passion and purpose. Not being reckless because today could be our last day but taking a lesson shared by Randy and really trying to live our full potential, pursuing the highest quality of Life and being successful in whatever ways we hold success. It isn't a new lesson or ground-breaking discovery, but a loving reminder that we're here until we're gone and the possibilities really are limitless.