Meeting was scheduled for 3:45 pm today at the client’s house. As I drove deep into the country woods, the paved road ended as I turned onto a sheet of gravel. My car jumped back and forth with each tire revolution. As I pulled up to the house, I was greeted by 4 dogs who were none too happy that an overdressed yuppie was encroaching.
To punish what is left of my ear drums, they decided to have a barking contest to determine who the alpha-male in the volume department was. Johnny, the “grouchy one,” was victorious.
knock knock knock Mrs. Stauffer (her stage name, of course) opens the door and invites me in. She offers a weary handshake and a “how do you do?” I enter the house, much to the chagrin of Johnny, who rattles off one more haymaker that shakes the siding of the house.
“My name is Barbara, which is 2 bars and an A. That there is Hank.” I glance over to see a man sitting back in a Lazy Boy. Blanket tucked under his chin, messy hair, thick glasses framing kind eyes, he groans and leans forward to shake my hand. I was honored that he made the effort.
His hands were strong and unusual – skinny fingers armed with fingernails that were abnormally long. As I shook his hand, I noticed that he had an oxygen tube in his nose.
The room was littered with medical devices, a year’s supply of oxygen tanks, prescription pill bottles, and a cheap humidifier that was emitting clouds of vapor into the living room.
“Hospice brought all of this stuff in. It destroyed our house, but we are thankful for them.”
This was a house call. I am not against them, but the situation has to be unique to justify it. This one was.
“Well, I had a hard time breathing, so we went to the doctor. They checked me out and said that I had pneumonia in my left lung, and they prescribed some pills for me to take. A week later, I was worse, so I called….”
The wife explodes “NO! I called, and I had some choice words for ‘em too. You don’t mess wit me but one time and that’s it.”
“Ok, you called, we went back. This time we went to CMC in Charlotte, and they did a CT scan. They came back and said that I have bone cancer all up my spine, cancer in my liver and in both lungs….I am eat up with it all over. They told me that they can treat it, but they can’t remove it or cure it. I told them to forget it, and the doctor gave me 30 days to live.”
Assuming this had been a while back, I asked when they received this diagnosis. “Today makes one week.” 23 days and counting was my first thought.
The end of this story was that I was able to help this couple immensely with their finances. I explained what they owned, and bonded with the wife “cause she is gonna be the one that you deal with when I am dead.” I promised the man that I would treat his wife as if she were my own mother, would explain everything to her, and answer every question she had. As her voice cracked while she struggled to fight back tears, he raised his hand, closed his eyes, and whispered “thank you.”
A tear broke the bottom of the eye and streamed down her chapped cheek, but she managed to talk through a cracked voice: “The other man would not even talk to me. He acted like I was not even in the room.”
“We have dealt with him for 5 years, and we couldn’t get him to come out here. He said that we could make an appointment with his assistant.”
Honesty: that is a line that I use constantly. I am eternally occupied, and my assistant helps keep me sane. Of course, knowing the situation, I would have gone to their house. Check that…I DID go to their house.
When I speak to a dying person, I always worry about the condition of their heart and soul. This time it was inappropriate. After all, it was none of my business. I wrestled with myself about whether to ask the man about his afterlife beliefs. However, I lost that wrestling match, so I asked him. He told me that he was Catholic and believed in Jesus. It seemed to help him just to tell me what he believed, and that was my intent in asking him….not to preach him a sermon. I wasn’t selling him my belief system…I was just listening to his.
After we had settled the business and the God-talk, my goal switched to trying to make them laugh. If possible, that was the least I could do. The Mrs. said they had been married 11 years, but together for 31, so I deadpanned to Hank and blurted “dang man…you have a hard time making decisions?” The line went over well. He laughed. She laughed herself into a coughing fit.
We laughed, we cried, we joked around. We spoke about hole-in-ones and morphine. I could have spent the entire day sitting in that chair talking to them. The rest of the world could wait. My phone calls, appointments, and obligations grew insignificant. What I was doing had eternal value. It was one of those few moments in life that you just KNOW you are right where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what HE wants you to do.
So, this story had a happy ending….today. But soon, it will end sadly.
I am 700 words in, and haven’t touched on the point of this article. My point is this: if you were given one month to live, what would you spend your time doing?
I could write an entire book about my list of things, but that might bore you, the reader. The important thing for you is to think about your own list, and then start whittling that list down line by line.
Why wait until you have terminal cancer to begin the process of eliminating the death checklist? Start on it now. When everything has been corrected, all of the apologies offered, each neck hugged, and every piece of forgiveness requested, you will have peace. True peace…in your heart.
And, you will likely live a normal life expectancy. But, it will feel like what you were doing before was not living. Not like this. The chains will disappear. The demons will be exorcized. You will be a new person that will breathe life into other hurting people.
Live the rest of your days like that, and you will regret that you waited this long to take such a step. I am starting this now, and I hope you will join me.
God bless you all for reading. I appreciate your time. For those of you that know me personally, I love you with all of my heart. And NO, I am not dying. For those that do not know me at all, thank you so much for reading. You could be doing a million other things right now, and I am honored that you gave me 5 minutes of your life.
I hope I was a good steward of your time.
Now, go be a good steward of your own time….what time you have left.