People Say The Nicest Things When You’re Dying

Since my diagnosis, I’ve gotten some amazing gifts, including the coolest gift ever, but I’ve also gotten notes from people with incredibly kind words. One friend shared that she would probably never have become the strong feminist she is if she hadn’t met me. Another said that my non-judgy-ness got her through a very rough patch in her motherhood. One of my coworkers said at my retirement party that I am the best lawyer he’s ever worked with. I had no idea these folks felt that way, until they wrote me those notes. It means a lot to me that I’d touched their lives.

The thing is, why DIDN’T I know they felt that way? It’s because we don’t usually say these things to people until they’re dying. And then suddenly, we forget all the bad shit, and just focus on the good. You forget the million times I stuck my foot in my mouth or was catty or dropped the ball and didn’t show up to help when you needed it, and you remember the time I got you drunk when your boyfriend dumped you and told you that you were so money and you didn’t even know it.

I’m not dying today. As I told my oncologist the other day, I’m feeling the best I have since this shitshow began. Except, I kind of am dying, just in very very very slow motion. And that’s why people send me these notes saying how much they love me and what I mean to them, when they haven’t ever done anything like that before–because I have a terminal illness.

But the thing I’ve learned from having that terminal illness is this–we’re all dying. All of us. Not one of us is going to get out of life alive. We just don’t like to think about it, because we hope it’s so far off in the future, but one day you will be dead. As Bill Shatner said, “This may come as news, but…you’re gonna die. You’re gonna die. By the time you hear this, I may well be dead. And you, my friend, might be next. ‘Cause, we’re all gonna die.”

I’m gonna say this. I think it’s crap that we have to wait until we’re aware that we’re gonna die, before people tell us all these nice things about what we mean to them. That’s total fucking bullshit, you guys. Seriously, this should not be a perk of having cancer, to have people tell you that you’re awesome. It should happen every day. You should be going out and telling the people who have meant something to you, who have been there for you when you needed it, that they’re awesome and that you love them. I should be doing it too, and I haven’t been, but I’m going to now. Because, we’re all gonna die.

Homework: every day, say something nice to someone who has meant something to you. I’m not saying you should look up that ex-boyfriend who treated you like shit–I’m saying, the people in your life who you love, but you haven’t told them so, you should tell them so. Tell them thank you. Tell them what you admire about them. Imagine they’re dying–because really, they are–and give yourself license to forget the dumb stuff for a minute, and appreciate the good. It’s gonna make them feel good, and it’s gonna make you feel good too.

10 thoughts on “People Say The Nicest Things When You’re Dying

  1. This was incredibly beautiful. I lost my Mom this year to ovarian cancer. Her battle was just under 6 months. She was in total denial (as was I) about how sick she was. She told no one how sick she was. So when shit hit the fan (pardon my french) I wanted people to know. My family, did not. With my Moms blessing I posted on Facebook that she wasn’t doing so hot. As a very outgoing person, and elementary school teacher for 33 years, she was very well known. I asked for memories, well wishes, jokes, or anything. I read to her for 3 days in a row of just endless messages. Stories of her kindness, klutziness, first meets, impacts, and more. I am left now with the endless questions, and conversations I wish we had. You are right, people shouldn’t wait, and should just SAY IT! One day it will be too late. I have been loving the Dr Suess quote of: “Today I will behave as if this is the day I will be remembered.” You’re a warrior <3
    Erin recently posted…What I’m Thankful ForMy Profile

  2. Beth,
    The best thing about LinkedIn so far is that this notice led me to your blog “Beth Caldwell is now CEO at Congratulate Beth.”

    I rarely look into these things, but my curiosity and the name of your blog was just too alluring. I think your blog is funny and right-on about so many things. I have not stayed up on things and am so sorry you are battling with cancer. That sucks. Really sucks.

    This is a song I have been singing to my son in the hopes that he gets the lesson you have shared, that we need to tell each other we appreciate and love each other now. There is no need to wait. I hope you enjoy the song (and are not too distracted by the video).

    Alex McKay recently posted…People Say The Nicest Things When You’re DyingMy Profile

  3. I feel the exact same way (albeit I learned this while living abroad, not from cancer). I’m glad that you’re holding steady, feeling the best that this shitshow has to offer, and that you’re writing this blog. Thank you for being you, Beth.

  4. I love this post. Why the hell is it so hard to remember to do this more often? Thank you for this reminder! And a huge thank you for helping to feed my girl when I had trouble keeping the tanks full. Simply saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t ever feel like enough, but I am forever grateful.

  5. I liked you before you were dying.

    But I get that it’s a wake-up call. My family was never all that demonstrative. I think when his church encouraged parishioners to give each other the “Kiss of Peace”, my father seriously questioned his religious commitment. My mother held out her arms when she saw my brother last year, and he panicked that the pod people had gotten to her. (Turns out she was just showing him the fit on the new sweater he’d gotten her. Whew!) So before 9/11, I just assumed that people knew I loved or at least liked them.

    Then I talked to a man who had been on vacation when his entire office—people he’d known and liked and even loved for years—went down with the Twin Towers. He said he told his family every day that he loved them. I can’t claim it happens every day, but I say it a lot now too. I hugged my parents, and even kissed them. Both of them died last year, and I can honestly say I didn’t have any unfinished business there.

    I don’t know if you’re right about people telling you what they think because you have a terminal illness. But good for them. It seems so often that people don’t know how to deal with that information so they handle it by avoiding it as a topic and the person because they don’t know what to talk about.

    I like your blog. I should say so more often. (I guess pushing the “like” button isn’t enough, especially because I haven’t been a faithful visitor.) Your take on the world is unique and makes me think. Thank you.
    Barb Taub recently posted…Homage to @ SoVeryBritishMy Profile

  6. I accept that challenge. Every day from now on!
    And I am so glad that your tests were good and you’re feeling so feisty 🙂
    So let me start now: I admire your strength, courage, dedication, and humor. I don’t call that dying…I call that really, really living!
    Lorinda McKinnon – the Rowdy Baker recently posted…Acorn Dinner RollsMy Profile

  7. So glad you are feeling the love and feeling so much better! Will definitely add this happy news to my Thanksgiving gratitude list!! xoxo

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