January 28, 2012

What happens when we die?

I lay in bed at night watching my wife sleep. As tired as I am, my mind churns over unanswerable questions. It fights the darkness of sleep that robs me of valuable time left. I could physically sleep all day, but my mind wants me awake to enjoy every minute. Dianne sleeps the sleep of the caregiver. Exhausted, afraid, worried about me and worried about what will become of her without me. We are as close as two people can be and I want to be with her every minute. I look at her all the time. Sometimes it spooks her. I wonder if I will ever see her again after I die. This is the most tangible aspect of the question of life after death for me, but the answer to that lies within the answer to the broader question.

As I've described before, I have chosen to believe that we are a part of the greater Spiritual Universe and, when we die, we rejoin it in some way. But in what way? Certainly we don't just rejoin a blob of nothing. The lights just can't go out, can they? There must be something more. In the same way that I choose not to believe we are the only intelligent species in this unknowably huge cosmos, I choose not to believe that our exceptionally short time in this physical embodiment is all there is in the infinite river of time. Like I say, I can't prove any of this, but I find it reasonable and comfortable to accept this viewpoint.

Up to now, this has been sufficient for me because my actual death was far enough away that I didn't have to worry about it as much. But now that it is uncomfortably close (even with all the uncertainties) I need to know more. I need to have some idea of what is waiting for me. I don't want to be laying on my death bed, scared senseless that the lights are going out. If they did, I wouldn't even know it, but that doesn't matter. That's rational thinking and there is no place for rational thought on the death bed. I need a belief. I need something.

Now I have already said that I can't believe in the classic view of the afterlife proposed with such certainty by the formal religions. Whether it's pearly gates and angels or twenty virgins, the certainty alone makes them suspect. I don't believe things just because they were written down many years ago by mortal men who were still alive. I have much respect for people who do believe in the literal interpretation of these texts, but I choose not to.

So what happens when we die? Whether we retain some degree of individual identity or become some part of an amorphous existence, the real question - the important question - is whether we retain any sense of our individuality and/or our former existence on earth. If we reincarnate back and forth, as some believe (including Buddhists), do we retain memories of all of our previous lives? Will I remember Dianne and my life with her or not? I realize there are many questions here, but I have no answers for any of them. I will say this, though.... if I am reincarnated, I will not worry too much about who or what I come back as. Not now. There is no possible answer to this that I would find comforting or more feasible than any other. Maybe it's just me, but I am most concerned about the moments of existence (if any) after death rather than the moments after that existence. Does this make any sense? If I were to simplify things, I suppose I just want to know that there is more than nothing when my life here is over. That's all. Is that too much to ask for? Yeah, well, I guess so.

I have already received some help in this. There are many people who have had near-death experiences (NDEs) who have related events that happened to them after they have presumably died and before they returned to life. I have met some of these people. I have read some of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' writings on this and I have been loaned many books on the subject which I intend to read. Over the next few weeks and months, perhaps these will give me some ideas which I will share with you. In the meantime, here are some initial thoughts to kick things off.

Some people with NDEs recount an afterlife that looks exactly like the visions of heaven that are taught in the christian bible. When I hear about these, I think of dreams and how they are fictions formed by extracting memories and images stored in our brains. Anything we have "seen" in a dream, we have seen in real life, have visually imagined, or have possibly even seen on television or the movies. So someone who has been brought up with visions of heaven reinforced time and again by parents or preachers or teachers could very well have a dream-like vision in that gray area between life and real death. If every NDE was the same, I would be more likely to accept it, but that is not the case. But there does seem to be some similarity in NDEs amongst many other people, so perhaps there is something in that.

I think I will stop here for now and read some and let my mind mull over what I've heard to date. If you wish to share any of your own thoughts, you can provide a comment or you can email me directly. Just please don't be offended. We are all entitled to our own beliefs. Right?


I have not been doing that well lately. I don't think there is a time when I really feel good. If I'm not sleeping or ready to fall asleep sitting up, I feel ill and often very anxious. I'm trying some new meds to help with this, but they haven't helped much as of yet. I probably have around 5 or 6 "good" hours during the day when I'm not sleeping yet still feeling "crummy", however you want to interpret that word. I think this is mostly the cancer advancing but I don't know still how fast this will happen or how long I will have. I can only go by how I feel and I feel worse now than a month or so ago. I'll keep you posted.

January 23, 2012

Who am I and what the heck am I doing here?

As I said in my last post, I choose not to believe in any particular religious dogma or theism. I also don't want to classify myself as an Athiest or a Humanist either because I don't like the idea that, after we die, there is just....... nothing. I really need to figure out something comfortable to believe in. You might think that this demeans the power of faith however, in the absence of the possibility of proof, a comfortable belief is as valid as any. To be honest, if I weren't dying, I probably wouldn't worry about it at all. But I am.

I am a good person, I have lived a good life, and that should be enough of a religion for living. But I am concerned whether how I live my life effects what will happen when I die. So I have to ask, "What the heck am I doing here and what the heck am I supposed to be doing while I am here?" Sometimes I wonder, If we're just here for a short time and there's nothing afterward, then why bother doing anything at all? In a hundred years, nobody will remember me anyway. But what if there is a heaven? Now there's something to think about! Maybe it is important to have a sense of why we are here and how our lives effect our afterlife. The "formal" religions use their religious beliefs and dogma to answer those questions for us but I think this often borders on the disingenuous. They claim to know with certainty why they are here and where they are going when they die. And they should be very happy to die, I would think.

As I've said, I personally don't believe in the Christian view of God, nor do I believe that there is a master plan of any kind. If there is some kind of master plan, it certainly doesn't include a predetermined list of who wins the lottery, which sports team wins a particular game, which people live well while others starve, which contestant wins a challenge on a reality show, etc. You would think that people who pray to God for his intervention in these types of things and thank him when they win, must be pretty shocked to find that He actually plans for them to die...... sometimes horribly! It just goes with the territory.

This is something I can believe in - that how we live our lives and how we prepare for our deaths is completely up to us. If we are here for any purpose at all, it is simply to live - to be born, to live as long as we can (loving and procreating along the way), and to eventually die. That's it. There's no more guidance than that. But in that belief, there are many decisions and choices to be made.

Ernest Becker, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "The Denial of Death" suggests that it is the fear of death (or our inability to deal with it) that drives us to determine a "role" in life and that role often becomes our "purpose" for all intents. I'm comfortable with that. But in that, there is much to choose. For example we can, and do, chose who we are. I believe that the "role" we define for ourselves - the characterization of who we are and what we do - depends on the relative balance we choose amongst key dimensions such as family, friends, spirituality, work, etc. This also determines, to a large degree, the other choices we make along the road from awakening to death. Are we family-oriented or are we destined to lead from a political platform? Are we focused almost exclusively on ourselves and the pursuit of wealth, or do we devote our lives to helping the poor? Are we workaholics or alcoholics? Or both? And, ultimately, are we happy or sad, full of regrets when we finally lay on our deathbed?

I believe this much - that we alone determine who we are and how we behave throughout our lives and that this effects our state of mind as we face the end. We can choose to believe in the ideals of a specific religion and to live a "religious" life, or we can ignore religion all together and just live a good life. If we live well, does that mean we die well? If we live a good life, do we go to a "nice" place? What really happens when we - schoolteacher, streetsweeper, minister, politician, businessman, housekeeper, billionaire or vagrant - die and leave our earthly works behind?

That is the next question to explore.


I have been particularly ill for the last couple of days and, now that I think about it (and as my dear Dianne reminds me), I haven't been well for several weeks. Looking back, I felt pretty good at the beginning of the summer, not bad at the end of the summer, somewhat worse during the fall and I am much worse now than I was at the beginning of December. I sleep so much now and when I'm awake, I'm exhausted. I am out of breath doing anything. When I do wake up, most of the time I feel ill and just want to stay in bed. But I force myself to get up so I can get things done (read my post on Wrestling with Time).

Based on how I feel, what I know of this disease, and discussions with health care professionals, I realize that I am now visibly starting to die. The cancer is wearing away at my body which is tiring from fighting it. I have no interest in eating and it is only due to the constant oversight of Dianne that I am not losing weight yet. I now don't think that I will make it to the end of this year and it has been suggested to me that I may not be well enough to attend my daughter's wedding in August. My daughter is now talking about moving up the date but, as much as I want to be there, I don't want her to disrupt the complex planning that has already taken place for her to have the wedding of her dreams. This isn't easy for any of us and we'll have to see how it will play out. I feel so guilty. I know I shouldn't, but I still feel that way. I want to cry and I do. This sucks.

January 18, 2012

What should I believe?

Before I die, I want to understand as much as I can about who I am and what I'm doing here. All of us, at times, wonder why we're here, what the meaning of life is, what the meaning of "our" life is. But when you are faced with your own mortality, it can become of increasing importance to understand your life in order to come to terms with your death.

I first started exploring this a few years after my initial cancer diagnosis and treatment. While I thought I was cured, the idea of having a disease that could kill me left me with an uncomfortable gap in how I viewed life and my place in it. I went through an intense period of introspection, research and discussion with my psychologist, trying to figure this out. At the time I remember thinking how much I envied those who were very religious, who had an unshakeable, unquestioning belief in god, Jesus and the miracle of existence. These people know, with utter certainty, why they are here, what they are supposed to be doing while they are here and what happens when they die. With that kind of belief, there is no uncertainty, no anxiety, no fear of death. All things have meaning, all life has a purpose, and they can look forward to death with joy and rapture. Oh, was it so simple!

I finally came to the realization that there was no way to "prove" any particular theism or religion. It was all dogma, all speculation, built upon the imagination of relatively learned men who sought to explain the mysteries of life, death and existence to those who were less learned and more anxious about such things, as well as to themselves. There is nothing a learned man hates more than something that is unanswerable; that defies the activities of research and discovery that are the essence of thinking man. We need to know. Luckily, however, with the steady explosion of knowledge that we are experiencing in modern times, we can now see and readily accept that we can't know everything. So I am comfortable with not knowing everything with certainty, and am just as comfortable living with a belief system that is not completely provable, as so much is now. I needed an answer that I was comfortable with. That felt "right" in spite of the fact that it couldn't be proven.

As soon as I came to that conclusion, I was able to quickly pull together a set of beliefs and explanations that filled the gap with sufficient comfort to allow me to move on. But now that I'm facing death within a short time, I feel the need to revisit this to ensure that I am making the most of my remaining time and to have a better idea of what to expect on the other side, if there is one, and/or if I will be aware of it. But at least I have a starting point. I have the beliefs that I developed last time which I can revisit as I dig deeper and explore, with you, what else there may be. It's something I am going to do anyway so I feel it is appropriate to share it with you here. Others will have their own beliefs, their personal fears, whether spoken or kept secret, and they will be "right" for them. Mine will only be right for me but perhaps it will give you some insight into the mind of someone who is facing eternity a little sooner.

So let's start where I left off. For those of you who have read my book, "The Wolf at my Door" it will be familiar as I felt it was important to include in the story of my cancer journey. But perhaps it will have new or different meaning in the context of this new life story line.

I choose to believe that we are all part of what I call the "Spiritual Universe", or the "Greater Spiritual". All of us and everything around us, seen and unseen, are made of energy and pass through different states at different times. We, as spiritual entities, come from the universe, spend time on this earth in our human form, and then return to the universe. The experiences we have during our time on earth - good, bad, short or long - change us and add value to the universe when we return to it. In that sense, the universe is constantly growing and evolving and we play an integral part of that evolutionary growth. Whether there was a big bang or not, the universe has always been here and will always exist, forever. Time has no beginning or end and no real meaning except that we move forward. Quantum physics, which I am very interested in, is questioning the concept of time, but I choose to apply this more simple meaning for purposes of understanding existence.

So I choose not to believe in any specific concept of god or supreme being beyond the universe itself. If you put aside the dogma and the "writings" and look at the essence of most religions, there is a consistency with all of these. I won't argue with you on this and I will readily support your own belief system because I can't disprove it nor do I want to try. If it works for you, then its right for you. There is value to me only in understanding my own belief system and what it says about my remaining life and death.

I'm going to stop here for now. This will be the first of a series of posts on this subject as I further explore and develop it in conversation with you. As always, I welcome any comments you might have either public or private. Remember, there is no right answer. I can't prove to you that you're wrong and you can't prove to me that you're right so let's not go there. Let's find out what makes life (and death) bearable for each of us!

PERSONAL UPDATE (Beginning with this post, I will be appending my personal update here - for posterity.)

The more stable I am over time, the more things stay the same, the better I am as I think it means the cancer is not going crazy. Oh, I know it's in there, growing, challenging my bodily systems, killing me, but I don't really care to know exactly where the tumors are, how many I have, or how fast my PSA is doubling. I feel crummy all the time, I fight pain all the time and I am so tired, so very tired.
Thankfully, I find the strength to write and I find strength in writing so I will continue to do that for as long as I can and even longer (think about that). This is my legacy, this is who I am. I hope it helps. It seems to be, judging from the feedback I get (which means so much to me).
Take care.

January 15, 2012

Wrestling with time.

Time. It's something I think a lot about now. You might think my focus would be on how much I have left, and that's true to an extent, but it's more complex than that. Time is a complex thing. Physicists are only now beginning to realize just how complex it really is in the quantum world. And while I guess we live in a universe guided by quantum mechanics, it is our perception of time that is most important.

I can almost see time, not as a I might see a clock, but more as a river or stream. I can look back at all that I have done, all that I've seen, all that I've experienced. And I can look forward at a seemingly infinite multitude of what may be. Only in my case, there's a stop sign or a steep drop-off somewhere up ahead. So I see a number of possibilities to fill my time remaining (things I can do) and a number of hazy things that I could potentially experience (over which I may have no control).

I do spend a fair bit of time looking backwards. I think this is a normal part of the "eyes-open" dying experience. Assessing the quality of my time on earth; weighing that against what or how I could contribute (make a difference) in the time remaining. But some of it is voyeuristic in a nice sort of way - looking back on good memories; remembering special times; thinking about what I would have done different if I'd only known; assessing whether I've lived a good life; and feeling regret for things I didn't do or didn't do right. Many people who have supposedly died and come back describe a period of reflection on their lives. I guess I'm just getting a head start on that.

But I probably spend more effort looking forward, because that is where my freight train sits, idling on the track, waiting to chug head long into me. It is also the open book upon which I can write my legacy or finally define (or perhaps refine is a better word) who I am or at least who I want to be remembered as. You can play this any way you want to. Some people choose to just ignore it (denial) and live their lives as normal as they can, accounting for any phsyical or mental limitations that their disease may bring upon them. So Joe the funny guy who maybe drinks a bit too much is still funny (maybe with a few more morbid jokes thrown in) and perhaps drings a bit too, too much, for which no one blames him. I would never deign to give an opinion on the efficacy or "wastefulness" of this approach one way or another. Others (hopefully few) just fall apart and do waste their remaining time. I believe this choice is a waste because I feel strongly that all of us should use our remaining time to better ourselves (in a spiritual sense) and help make this world a better place (as opposed to all the alternate universes supposedly out there).

I don't know exactly how much time I have. I know what my doctor told me but I know that they are not accurate because we are all different. But I read somewhere that, on average, these estimates tend to be too optimistic, so that's not good. Right now, I go by how I feel. My body is deteriorating at a noticeable rate and, while I can't extrapolate a specific time frame, I feel comfortable saying that I will make my daughter's wedding, but there's about a 50/50 chance of making the next new year's eve. Not very scientific but something real and something I feel comfortable amending depending on how I feel from week to week.

So time gives me a sense of urgency. Urgency to get things done. I have plans to execute to ensure that my affairs are neat and tidy, my family is well looked after, that they have friends to provide them support and help with the tough decisions ahead. I want to make those decisions easy and I want to leave things behind - things that are part of my legacy and things that are personal for my family. Lots to do. So little time.

But if I really think about time and what it has meant to me over the nine plus years since I was diagnosed, I see a lot of additional dimensions.

There is the time I have spent at the hospital and in doctor's offices, mostly waiting, but also talking, having treatments, following up. The time I missed from work while I was doing these things. More specifically, the time I spent in operating rooms and recovering from surgery, in particle accelerators having radiations treatments, in Chemo Daycare having poison pumped into me. Time spent in countless X-ray, CT Scan and MRI machines. The happy times that were overshadowed by the sad times. The time I missed doing other things, better things. The time I will miss with my wife and family when I'm gone. The time I will miss with friends, talking about happy, inconsequential things - relaxing. The time I spend outside on the water, soaking up the sun and the warmth. I could go on and on (until I run out of time!)

And lets look at time as a measurement. I've lived a long time (58 years). I have a short time to live (?). There's not enough time in the day to do what I want to do. I spend too much time sleeping, although that can't be helped. I love to spend as much of my waking time as I can with Dianne, my soul mate, the part of me that I will be leaving behind. I cherish every moment I have known her. I haven't spent enough quality time with my daughter Caralia, of whom I am so proud. I need to spend more time with her. The time I've missed with my son and the time he's missed being with his father. The time I spent with him when he was little to get him the help he needed to make it through the school system (which he did and which I am very proud of him for doing)and learning to look after himself. I hate spending too much time between blog posts. I have too much to say. I hate spending so much time in bed, although I have to. The summer isn't long enough and the winter is too long. I don't want to die so soon, but I will.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, in "Walden", one of my favorite quotes:

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. It's thin current slides away, but eternity remains.

January 7, 2012

Dying and the nature of friendship.

Having cancer can significantly change your friendships. You lose some and others surprise you by becoming closer. This has certainly been my experience. And when I became terminal, it changed even more. I'm finding that this is quite common. I thought it would useful to share some examples with you to help you understand what life can be like for those of us on the downslide.

You can lose friends for lots of reasons. One way is pretty obvious. If your illness prevents you from working, you are going to suddenly find yourself disconnected from dozens of people who have been your "friends" for years. Unless you have established a couple of strong friendships outside of work, you just won't see them anymore. I've left behind lots of work friends as I've moved around jobs and really don't see any of them anymore. Once in a while I will get a call or an email, which I really appreciate, but none of them are part of my support system now.

But then there are your other friends, the ones who have been with you for years before you were ill. Many of our friends are couples, originally met through our kids when they were very young. Many of these friends have stayed with us and have pitched in to varying degrees to help out. We know that they will be with us all the way through this and, hopefully, will also be there for Dianne as she makes a new life. She worries about this, but I know they will be there for her. Sometimes, though, we can be lax in returning calls from our friends because we are going through a tough time. After particularly bad news, we often find ourselves "hunkering down" at home and not really up to talking to anyone. So we let the phone ring and it might even be a couple of weeks before we return a call. I hate when this happens but, at the time, we were pretty inwardly focused. I know this happens to lots of people. Most of our friends understand and give us the space when we need it but others may feel snubbed. This can sometimes cause a distancing which can become permanent if we don't do something about it.

But this isn't always the case. Many people can't handle it when their friends get an illness. We lost many friends when I first got cancer and I know others who have also. People don't know what to say so they just avoid it by avoiding you, by staying away. It makes you wonder just how close the friendship was in the first place. And it's worse when you are terminal because that is one huge elephant in the room. Good friends know that they don't need to talk about it all the time, but they also know that it must be very difficult for us and they try to help. If it's not an open ear, it could be a meal or an offer to help out at times. But there are some who can't handle negativity in their lives and, as a dying friend, you poentially bring a lot of that with you. It's a matter of perspective though because it can bring out a lot of positive things in people who are willing to offer a shoulder to cry on or a helping hand. In fact, sometimes it can turn a casual acquaintence into a close friend. It has certainly happened to us. While we have had friends who have distanced themselves from us, we have others who have become closer. One couple who we hardly ever saw before (mostly just the women getting together once in awhile for coffee) has become exceptionally close. They really understand our situation and always ask how we are and go out of their way to ensure I'm comfortable. Knowing how much I love the water and the outdoors and how I miss my old kayaking and campling trips, they made sure to have us up to their cottage many times this past summer. They care and we love them for it.

There are other reasons for friendships to change. One person I talked to felt that she was pushing people away herself. She knows she is doing it, and doesn't want to, but can't seem to stop it. Maybe subconsciously she wants to be left alone or has resigned herself to a loss that may seem inevitable for her. On the other hand, people may have already had too much loss and sadness in their lives and can't handle any more. I respect this.

Regardless of the reasons, it hurts to lose friends. But you also meet some really nice people along the way and sometimes new friendships develop and flourish. And that is what's really important in all of this - we need to have friends around. We need people around us to keep reminding us that life is real and good and, no matter how long we have, that there is still a lot of living that can be done, if perhaps more in terms of quality than quantity. I want people who love me close on this journey and, just as importantly, I want them close to my family after I'm gone.

Family situations can be even more complex and subject to change. My son left home when I was first diagnosed nine years ago and we have struggled to have a relationship ever since. I love him and I know he loves me, but I don't feel like he's really there for me. He's over 2,000 miles away and has missed so much. But maybe he can't help it any way (like I say, it's complicated) but it still hurts. On the other hand, I have developed a closer relationship with my older brother who wants to be there to support me. And my daughter has moved in with us, along with her fiancé, to help us out, and I know both of them will be around to support Dianne after.

Love is always good and can help to heal the soul if not the body. So thanks to all of you, friends and family, for being here for me now. I hope that I can give you something in return, including the knowledge that you are needed and loved.


January 1, 2012

A change of focus.

Each new year, many of us use the opportunity to take stock of ourselves, our accomplishments and our lot in life. The idea is to celebrate the good things and make a commitment to at least try to make some changes. In my case, I don't look back as much any more. My focus has changed in many ways but is very much on the future.

It seems obvious to say that a terminal prognosis changes your focus and I guess it is when you look at the big picture. Cleary, I am going to focus more on my health, on preparations for "the end" and on making the most of every day. But it's interesting to look at the little things, the day-to-day changes that collectively define this new life, my "new normal".

Here's an example. I overheard my daughter telling her dog that her vacation was over this weekend and that she had to go back to work. I don't think about things like that any more. Christmas used to be a happy time where I took vacation, hoped I didn't get called in to work over the holidays, and counted down the days until I had to go back. I don't work anymore and I don't even think about work. It would be nice to feel that every day is a vacation for me, but it's not. Every day, for me now, is an opportunity to do something positive but is also one day closer, one day less....

My daughter looks at her weekends and vacation days as opportunities to spend with her puppy, while I see my two dogs every day and have developed a close relationship with them. They are my sleeping buddies, given the amount of time I spend in bed every day, and they give me a lot of joy.

When you're working, you spend a lot of time thinking about your career, where you're headed, is it time to move on, building a network of contacts. Much of your social life seems to revolve around people you work with. When you stop work, all of that peripheral stuff disappears too. I no longer have to please anyone (except Dianne, of course) and the whole idea of a career just disappears. Also, I don't have to worry about clothes as much. Yesterday, I got rid of most of my ties and dress socks, and even a couple of suits. In fact, I can't even forsee myself going clothes shopping for anything except the odd pair of jeans, some shirts and new underwear. I haven't had a haircut in over a year (partly to grow back what I lost) and I wear an earing now because I always wanted to and I don't have to look a part anymore. I wear glasses permanently now (it happens as you age), and while I usually get my eyes checked each year and get new ones, I hardly think about it. Why bother?

I used to think a lot about how to better myself mentally. I spent a lot of time trying to understand the power of thought as a way of becoming something more (whatever that means) or being more successful. Now I think about what I can do in the time I have left to make sure my family is okay, how I can get some enjoyment out of each day, and what I should be doing with the rest of my days that could help others. I have become a writer and a blogger. I used to be a patient advocate and spoke at conferences but can't really do that anymore. When I think about the power of the mind and the scope of the universe, I'm focusing on the meaning of life and my place in the universe. I wonder why I have to die prematurely and whether my death can have meaning beyond just the fact that I have lived. And I wonder a lot about what comes after.

Other things have changed as well. I have always enjoyed watching television shows and movies but if I start watching something and don't like it, I just stop. Why waste my time? The same with books. I could never, ever put down a book without finishing it. But now... I don't have the time to waste. I'm not interested in politics and current events any more because they have little impact on me. Maybe I should care because these things will effect my family, but I guess I feel that there isn't much I can do to influence them anyway. I only really care about what is happening with my family, my friends, my dogs, the weather each day and the opportunities we have to make some good memories.

I used to worry a lot about image. Not as bad as some people I know, but I liked to dress well, look young, do interesting things and certainly appear healthy. But as my health has deteriorated, I just don't worry about these things. If I need to use a cane to get around or a walker, well.... that's just the way it is now. Women hold doors open for me now and my dear wife carries in the groceries. And I just accept it. Really, what else can I do? What use is pridefulness to me now?

As for the network I built during my working years, what of it now? I met so many people - coworkers at several different companies, customers, suppliers, consultants, headhunters. During eight years volunteering in child welfare I met many good people, social workers, politicians, other volunteers. And when I became active in healthcare issues I added doctors, administrators, professors, nurses, fundraisers, more politicians. But now, my "network" is much smaller. I still maintain my LinkedIn profile and list of contacts but my focus is on my immediate family and a small group of very loyal and caring friends. I don't see many of the other people in that old network, although every once in a while one of them will reach out to see how I'm doing and I know that many of them keep tabs on me through my blog. And I have been blessed to add a new network of volunteers, hospice workers and others in my situation who have added so much to my life and to Dianne's. While my larger network may have been important to me in earlier days, this new, smaller network surrounds me with enough love and support to brighten my days. In this regard, I am a very lucky man indeed!

There are so many other ways that my life has changed and so many different things that I focus on now, but this will give you some idea of what my life is like now. It's different. It's simpler but also much more complicated. Too complicated at times.

There's an expression - "Sometimes life gets in the way". I know what that means now. But life doesn't get in the way for me anymore. And while I can't avoid death, I try not to let it get in my way either.

Happy new year to all of you. Thanks for listening to me. The journey this year should be interesting!