My column last week asking how people would spend the last
months of their life, if they were still in good health, generated
more responses than I can possibly fit into another column. So
I selected three of them as representative of different viewpoints.
The last one is uplifting in that he looked up the life expectancy
for a male at my specific age and I could have 10 more years
This response came from Bruce Ladd, Northern Illinois University
Class of 1958: "My thoughts at life's end are not to spend
any significant money, travel the world, nor focus on my hobby
or particular wants.
The columnist would like to spend his last few weeks
sailing off Maui with his family on this little boat. (Photo
taken by Barry Schrader on Maui last year)
"My inclination is to solidify and improve my relationships
with my family members, friends, community acquaintances, and
"I also want to get my possessions and archives in
order so that my widow and kids will not be flummoxed by this
challenge. But, perhaps most important, I want to make every
effort to effectively manage my health conditions so that I can
stay in this wonderful world for as long as He will let me."
The next response is from Carla Vanatta of Genoa: "If
I were given eight months to live, I think first I would thank
God that I had some time left and wasn't taken suddenly, although
the quality of life may be difficult during that gift of time.
I think I would spend as much time and energy as possible in
nature, soaking up its beauty and wonder and strength.
"I would make family my first priority and savor the
time I had left to cherish my husband, sons, and grandchildren.
"I would try to make amends for any I have offended,
and would write letters of appreciation to those who have loved,
taught, and supported me.
"I would prepare letters of encouragement and love
for my family to be opened the next few years. And I would tell
of the gift of a Savior, Jesus, who forgives me and all who call
on him from his vast store of love and grace, and will welcome
me into the glories of heaven when my earthly life is over. Thanks
be to God!"
Finally, this informative and upbeat letter came from Avi
Bass, a retired NIU journalism professor: "You wrote last
week that you have eight more months to live since you are 76
because 'the average man's life expectancy' is 76.8 years. That
number is the average span for all lives from newborn to centenarian.
A better number for your years-to-go is in the [Centers for Disease
Control] life table for males at specific ages. Your 'expectation
of life' at the age of 76 is 10.4 years. Much better."
I am grateful that several readers took the time to contemplate
this issue, including those who shared their thoughts with me
at church, while eating at a restaurant and even while on the
walking track at the YMCA.