So many times in the past, I have heard people, after the death of a a loved one, say, “Did they know how much I loved them….” Or, “I never really got the chance to tell them how much they meant to me….” Or, the other haunting comment, “….I never got to say goodbye….”

Death is a given. There is no pretence or hope for a miracle cure, just certain death and the months leading up to it. So, when I was diagnosed with extensive stage carcinoma lung cancer I decided I wanted to die differently. As I wrote in my Christmas letter of 2021:

“I want to reconnect with the people who made my life what it is, All of you, in your own way, made my life “joyful” and I am thankful for that and for you being in my life. I do not know how many days for months I have left but I am thankful for each and every one of them. I hope that if I leave you with anything, it is how wonderful life is and how joyous the people in your life can be. Thank you for the role you played in my life as I could not have been me….without you!”

– Carl J. Mistlebauer, Christmas Letter 2021

I realize now, after five months that I have run into a roadblock. How do you balance your desire to openly accept your own impending death with the desire of your loved ones need for hopefulness.

How do you handle the well intentioned, who want to make sure you don’t quit fighting? That you stay strong. Sometimes I feel like I am back on a basketball team and in a huddle….getting psyched up to score that last basket so to win the game for my team.

At what point do I cease worrying about the needs of others, who I love dearly, and focus more on my needs. How do I ask for help? How do I reach out when I sense everyone is turning away?

How do I make my death as purposeful as I believe my life was as I accept the reality of my future?


  1. I have a diagnosis that may shorten my life also. I went through a period of intense self reflection. It is one thing to say, “I am Buddhist” but another thing to live like it.
    The writings of our wonderful Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh were a great help in helping me find clarity and to help me define the key emotions I was dealing with.
    I am in no hurry to die but realize we all will. No one gets out alive. The bodies we inhabit do have an expiration date. People talk out the fight to live but fail to grasp that dying is as natural as living.
    Where to next? Is there a next? Is it Heaven or Hell? Nirvana or Vahalla? Does it matter? The fear people have of death leads me to conclude very few actually believe in the tenents of their faith.
    I believe we should take advantage of modern medicine to help us live a little longer and ease our pain, as long as it makes sense to do so.
    When I am no longer able to celebrate milestones with my family, share fun times with my friends, do the things I enjoy then I no longer have a purpise to hang out here.
    I am in no hurry to go but every day I continue to prepare myself. I will be very sad when I hear of your passing but I will find comfort in thinking of you in the “next place” .
    And I hope it is everything you imagined it to be, my friend. XOXO


    • Rocky,

      Thank you for your comment! I have no idea what lies in the future but I did come to realize at a young age that I wanted a life that was meaningful: I wanted to stand for something and to make a difference. I now realize. to quote from a book that I started reading last night; “The more we have made our lives meaningful the less we will regret at the time of death.” ( “Good Life, Good Death by Lhama Gelek Rimpoche) I totally agree with you in regards to the fear of death and ones belief in the tenets of their faith. I wish you all the meaningfulness that one can achieve in a life and as I am going to start posting regularly I hope you come and share with us the thoughts of Thich Nhat Hanh and of course your own.


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