Thoughts from the dying about living

Gloria shares her thoughts

Listening to you talk with your daughter earlier, you seem very matter of fact about this stage of life.

It’s been around for a long time.

The cancer?

Yes, for the last thirteen years. It started as breast cancer. We did radiation, chemo, everything to the maximum. Then they discovered I had lupus. Then that sort of improved, but I developed a growth on my arm that was a sebaceous cancer that went up to my lymph nodes. So we knew it was the end. It’s spread very quickly, to my lungs, bones, joints and my esophagus.

Are you in pain?


You seem very energetic.

I had a very busy life. So now, it’s just a matter of trying to get through this, trying to figure out what to do. There are so many things. I said to my family, I don’t have the obits done, or this or this…

I have a big family. There are three grandchildren and three children. And I want to spend as much time with them as possible because obviously, I won’t be in their lives, facing facts. So we’re just trying to keep it together, trying to ensure everyone can feel OK about this and get everything the way we want it done. So we’ve arranged a memorial of some sort.

Does that help, being part of the planning and writing your own obituary?

I think it does. Yah, why not? There are a lot of people that know you, but do they really know you? I wrote bits and pieces, and my daughter and family did, too. But my daughter mostly, as she’s the writer in the family. My helping has made it easier because they don’t know all the details, you know?

So what did you write in your obituary that you hope people will know and remember?

Not so much anything profound, but this is just my life, basically. Pretty clean, pretty simple, pretty boring, but it is what it is. Just some of the things I’ve been involved in and some of the things I value, and that’s all. My children are my biggest accomplishment, and that’s how I feel and I think that needs to be portrayed.

I don’t know how long I have, I don’t think it will be three weeks, but what will be will be. I can’t change it. I know where I’m going and I’m fine. I just want my family by my side, I want them to know how important they are to me and that’s about it. Fortunately, I have a very supportive family around me and a tremendous amount of friends and neighbors. My belief in God has also been a big belief. So now, it’s just one day at a time.

Many families don’t want to talk about dying.

Our family isn’t like that. We always talk very openly about things. I remember we did our wills several years ago, and the kids wanted nothing to do with it, of course. So we had a dinner, and I said, OK, we’ve done our wills. This is what this means and this is what that means. And I said, you need to know. All three of you are on it, all three of you are equal, and nobody overrules anybody else because that causes too much conflict in a family. So at the end they said, so we just have to decide who pulls the plug, right mom? And that’s exactly how the conversation ended. And I said, yup, that’s it. Now pass the potatoes. We all had the same sense of warped humor, and that’s how it worked.

Do you have advice for families who may be struggling with this?

You know what? Life is life, and you’ve got to get through it one way or another. You’re not going to live to be one thousand, so you have to deal with it. But if you’ve done something you shouldn’t have done, fix it.

Have you felt the need to do that?

No, when I do something, if it’s done, it’s done. I can’t stand disrespect and I can’t stand people who don’t treat other people with respect, whether it is the smallest of children or oldest of persons. You treat others as you want to be treated.

What are you hoping your grandchildren will take away?

The kids know where they stand with me, even though the little one is quite young. They are adjusting OK. We try to take as many pictures as we can so they will at least have a semi-memory of this.

Why are you talking to me today?

I just feel, this is what I believe and a lot of people probably feel the same way. I suppose after many years in girl guiding, you learn to be prepared. My work ethic is the same, and you just do what you’ve got to do. And if you live your life like that, it makes things much easier. Do your best whatever way you do it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

» Learn about this project and view more perspectives