Thoughts from the dying about living

Cecilia shares her thoughts

How long have you been at the palliative unit?

A few months, since I was diagnosed with cancer. My sister died of cancer and a few more in my family, so it’s to be expected I guess. But then, you don’t expect it.

Do you mind if I ask your age?

I’m 94.

Did many people in your family live into their nineties?

Yes. My dad was 94 and my mom was 92.

It there a secret to aging well?

I don’t know if there is one. I skied and I swam and did stuff. I got involved in many things, church and volunteering. Whatever there was to do, I did. And lots of friends. They keep you laughing.

If I go back to my parents, they were good parents. There were involved in lots of things so I think it rubbed off on me a little bit. I was the oldest of seven.

Were you close with your siblings?

Yes, and still am. Family is so important. I have kids, and am lucky to have eight great grandchildren. They come [to visit] when they can. It really helps that we’re all close. I draw on that.

Were you married?

Yes, for 40 years. Too long. It was a challenge.

Learning to drive was the hardest thing I ever learned to do. I was thirty something and my husband didn’t want me to.

Is that why you did it?

Oh ya. I would drive the hills and think, I’ll show you! I loved it. I was pretty happy with myself for doing it.

I’m grateful that you are speaking with me, as this is a stage of life many people don’t want to acknowledge.

It’s sort of silly not to. Why not?

I think some people find it scary. I think some people don’t know what to say.

Well, I guess you don’t know what to say sometimes.

What do you think happens next?

You go to heaven. I had two sisters who died, one when she was 6 and one when she was 26. So I hope we all meet again, and I think we will. I’m close to church people and I built a table before I left home, put my name on it and left it at the church. And that’s kind of a souvenir of how I’d been involved there for a long time. You want to feel like you helped out how you could.

What makes a life a good life?

There is always lots that isn’t good, you know. There always is. Things you would change if you could, but you can’t. The kids always said that I pushed them along to do things that they wanted to do, the careers that they wanted, and they did and I feel good about that. I was a hairdresser and had my own hair salon. I enjoyed doing it, It’s what I wanted to do.

I think we worry about a lot of little things that don’t amount to very much. Do you agree?

Maybe you do, I don’t know. Just enjoy what you can enjoy.

Any regrets?

I didn’t have a very good marriage, and life would have been easier if that had gone smoother, but that’s that. I focus on my kids because that’s the most important thing: family.

What are you hoping to share with people reading this?

I hope others will let their kids do what they do best. I think it worked out the way it should have.

Do you find this a scary time?

Not really. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to die. It’s just a fact. It will come and that’s fine with me. You live the best life you can, and if you can improve on it you do, and if you can’t you don’t. It’s all good.

+ This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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