The Legacy of a Day Well Lived

Listen to the Commentary

MP3 Download

The following essay is from the NPR My Cancer weekly podcast:

What if everyone just disappeared one day? That's the theme of a fascinating new book called The World Without Us. The author, Alan Weisman, talks about what would happen if all humans just... vanished. Pick your catastrophe — disease, environmental, a religious event or space aliens, that's not the point. Weisman talks about how quickly nature would rid itself of our imprint. How quickly would our houses fall, our cities and roads? What would last the longest?

In our vanity, we have thought that the things we build, the marks we leave, will pretty much last forever. I doubt the Egyptians expected the pyramids to crumble any time soon. And our modern cities, the gleaming towers of glass and steel? No, we leave those for succeeding generations to see and remember us, for good or bad.

I've been thinking about this on a personal level. We're all going to die. We all know that. And so this applies to those suffering with cancer and those who will die in their sleep in their 90s. To those who will die instantly in an accident, and those who will lose their lives in a conflict that rages now, but in a few generations will be left to history students to study briefly and then forget.

When we're gone, how fast will we disappear? How long before time erases any trace that we were ever here? "Dust to dust" is not just a figure of speech, after all. We'll live on for a while in the memories of those we've touched. But over time, these, too, will fade along with our pictures.

I'm not talking about fame. It's of dubious value now, and certainly not worth much after we die. Who, besides a few contestants on Jeopardy, can name the builders of the pyramids? The Seven Wonders of the World have all but disappeared, to be replaced recently by a new list that just doesn't seem to fire the imagination the way the old one did. The bottom line — it really doesn't matter what anyone says after we're gone. It would be nice if everyone said good things. But we won't be here to hear them.

Doctors told me I was supposed to die 13 months ago. Then seven months ago, and then, next month. They've been wrong every time. But at some point they're going to be right. So what matters is not what we leave behind. What matters is what we do now. Do we touch the lives of others? Do we make a difference? Do we earn our place for the brief time that we are here? I think all we can hope for, all we should strive for, is a day well lived. And then another, and another. What better legacy could there be?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Thank you for your post today...it is very appropriate on this day that my dad will loose his life to cancer. But, it was a life well lived and he is a man well loved.

Sent by Karen | 8:36 AM | 7-16-2007

"A life well lived touching others lives in a positive way"... there is no better legacy!!

And YOU Leroy have done exactly THAT!

This blog is proof positive!

Sent by Ron Bye (NH) | 8:44 AM | 7-16-2007

Leroy,
I have been reading your blog for a while now as I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins in May. This was so beautifully written. Thank you for always sharing, your honesty and for making a difference in so many lives. You have truly earned your place.

Sent by Carolynn Dubicki | 8:53 AM | 7-16-2007

Dear Leroy,

My goal today: make it a day well lived. Just thinking about this is an antidote to the fear, depression, and sadness that often immobilize me.

Thank you.

thoughtfully,
Kim Blankenship

Sent by Kim Blankenship | 9:04 AM | 7-16-2007

I often don't discuss my religious beliefs and such. However, this post touches on something that I've been thinking a lot about lately. As an artist I hope that my art will go on after I'm gone. Chances are if I'm lucky it will be in someone's attic or sold for the frames at a garage sale instead of being in a museum somewhere. If I'm not lucky it will immediately go to the garbage collector. This is the reality. So why do I create? Why do I put my best foot forward everyday? It is for the very reason you state. "What matters is what we do now." This is a brilliant statement. It says it all.

Being Jewish, I was taught the idea of Tikkun Olam, which is about making the world a better place and repairing it. I was taught that we do things not for reward but because it is our duty. Often we wonder if anything we do means a darn thing but I was taught it is not for us to know. It is just for us to do.

Before cancer I struggled with this concept. I wanted measurable results from my actions. Now I see this is foolish and self destructive behavior. It will only lead to frustration. It is about being in the moment and living each day to share my particular gift and do my best to bring light into the world, even if it is no brighter than the glow of a firefly.

I think Leroy that you do something that matters every single day just by putting your thoughts out there. I read everyone's posts and know that you have made this world a better place for so many. I imagine this reaches more than you could ever know. We don't know how many people are touched by what you say and rethink their actions and change so that they can "pay it forward".

Thank you for your work here.

Lori

Sent by Lori Levin | 9:05 AM | 7-16-2007

Leroy, I never really thought about a legacy, I guess. But I do like the idea of being alive. It's fun, it's what I do. I might like being dead, but I don't know enough about it. No has been able to tell me about it, and let's face it, not a lot of books on the subject.

Sent by joanne Wilkerson-Burke | 9:06 AM | 7-16-2007

Terrific subject for today!! The questions posed in your last paragraph are the truly important ones to focus on. The answer to those questions for you is a resounding YES...you have greatly touched the lives of so many; you have made such a difference in so many lives (just look at the daily comments and new people that hear about this wonderful place and join this community each day); for this deed alone (your dail blog), you have earned your place in our hearts and minds until we cease to exist;and your legacy... it is something to behold, something for each of us to embrace and something that exemplifies the very best of the human spirit!

If each of us could/would emulate what you are doing each day for us and do the same within our own circle of family, friends and acquaintances, the power of doing good would be an awesome thing. You have set a very high bar for us, Leroy but I think that we can all strive as you do to touch the lives of others who are in need and make a positive difference. I commit myself to follow your lead...

Blessings and prayers each day for you and Laurie.

Sent by Al Cato | 9:14 AM | 7-16-2007

How can you put a time limit on life remaining for a person. The only time you can do that is when all signs: physiologic and physical are there. Thank goodness we can't, it allows us to live our lives to the fullest. I have a decorative tile about the clock of life, which is wound once, and we do not know when it will stop.

About 8 years ago, I visited what was once my grandparents property in south Georgia. The kudzu and weeds had taken over, the house which once seemed so large was gone. Reclaimed by nature.

Sent by Susan Chap | 9:21 AM | 7-16-2007

Well said!

Sent by Pat Cleeland | 9:26 AM | 7-16-2007

Leroy:

I wouldn't worry if I were you about leaving something behind. Even if you had never done this blog, all the work you have done as a journalist, putting your life in danger to educate the rest of us sitting nice and safe at home is legacy enough. The fact that you decided to do the TV special on your fight with cancer and this blog is something extra special and you have touched countless people in such a positive and caring way. Not everyone will have the chance to positively influence so many people but just being a good person and doing small good deeds is just as rewarding and noticed by the powers that be.

Karen Cop

Sent by Karen Cop - New York City | 9:28 AM | 7-16-2007

Amen, Leroy,

What better legacy could there be than to touch other lives with positive outcomes? And you are doing that on a daily basis.

If nothing else, cancer has given me a deeper appreciation of the positive experiences of life. Perhaps they have become more cherished because I know that the time remaining is short. I'm not sure.

I did see a heart warming event Saturday while waiting for a take out order at a New England Seafood Resturant. A young man, who appeared to be homeless walked by the restaurant. The manager went out and invited the man inside and then he gave the young man a sandwich to take with him. The young man thanked the manager and went on his way. It's so nice to see that there are still random acts of kindness out there. Especially when the news we hear today is so negative all the time.

God Bless you Leroy and all the bloggers. I look forward to reading your experiences and thoughts everyday. You are more help than you will ever know!

Eileen Pruyne
Charlotte

Sent by Eileen Pruyne | 9:29 AM | 7-16-2007

I don't have cancer....yet...as far as I know at least. I have friends who do...or did. When I sit with them at chemo or help them cope with some of their challenges I keep reminding myself that I have the exact same amount of time they have...right now...that's it. I have right now. They have right now. Neither of us has tomorrow, yet...or even a minute from now.
I am a psychotherapist and I have encouraged my clients to read your blog...not just clients who have cancer or a loved one with cancer. Reading your writings and your thoughts helps everyone gain perspective on what is important in life. I have had clients upon reading your blog say they recognize the richness of your life and how you are touching others and changing lives regardless of your own situation. This is not a perspective shift where they may think "could be worse, could have cancer". No. This is a perspective change that involves valuing others,cherishing the moments we each have to make a difference and paying attention to how we spend our "now".
Leroy, the moments and thoughts you share with us are some of the most meaningful and uplifting of my "now". Even those that make me sad still make me feel. My compassion is increased with each reading and I am reminded of how I want to spend my "now". Thank you for giving each of us such a treasure.

Sent by Sandi Li | 9:35 AM | 7-16-2007

Dear Leroy,

And you are truly a dear person. My breath was taken away this morning reading your message. You have a spellbinding gift with words.

What you are doing for me and probably all of us who read you and feel so personally connected to you, is take our thoughts and feelings and put them in the most perfect words.

I get such a sense of relief each morning when I read your blog. It is the first thing I do in the morning and it sets my inner direction for the rest of the day.

My cancer has given me the gift of you. You have given me the gift of reading my deepest thoughts expressed in words and ways I only dream of writing.

Thank you once again.

Laurel

Sent by Laurel M. Jones | 9:48 AM | 7-16-2007

I remember when I used to lead groups and used the resource "The Book of Questions," and one question was, 'If you had 6 months to live how would you spend it?'

I never thought that question would have any relevance in my life. Now that this question does pertain to me, I have thought about the answer. I don't need any exotic trips or high-risk recreational activities. I just want to truly "live" my life and appreciate every intricacy of the beauty of living. Maybe it is appreciating the sounds of wild birds - how beautiful they sound. Or, perhaps, doing a small but good deed for someone..something small that gives you a 'warm fuzzy'
feeling.
Leroy, reading your blog gives me my daily mental exercise and inspiration to "live" and "love" and "laugh...."
Thank you for that!

Sent by Lisa | 9:53 AM | 7-16-2007

Good Morning Leroy/All

When you were interviewd by Ted Koppel on the "Living with cancer" special you asked yourself a question.........."Did I make a difference"..........well the answer to that is YES. You have touched our lives in ways that you can't even begin to imagine and for that I am so deeply greatful.

I am aware of all the accomplishments you have achieved during your lifetime as a producer/journalist. But, in my opinion they pale in comparison to what you have done for all of us who read this blog on a daily basis. You will certainly leave an indelible mark.

I wish only the best for you Leroy and I hope that by our posts we are giving you something in return.

Always in my prayers, Sasha

Sent by sasha | 9:54 AM | 7-16-2007

Dear Leroy,

Your post today is especially relevant for me, as I learned that my brother-in-law passed away early yesterday morning. Terry was childhood-survivor of lymphoma (Hodgkin's, I think) and the massive amount of radiation used to treat it back then damaged his heart. He would have been 51 in September.

While he never talked much about having had cancer, he made every day count; both in the way he lived his life and in the way he touched others. He recently said that I was only person who really understood what he was feeling, as we both had chronic and catastrophic illness in common (I have metastatic non-functioning islet cell carcinoma in the liver.) I will miss the great discussions we had about dealing with it, doctors, and the uncertainty.

For those of you so inclined, please add my sister to those you pray for. She is doctor herself, and I suspect that will make the grieving and recovery process even harder. For myself, I will miss him, as the understanding went both ways.

The lives we touch are the most important legacy we can leave when we're gone. Thank you for what you've given us all, every day.

Sent by Erica | 10:02 AM | 7-16-2007

Ah, we could all sit and ponder the questions posed for us in today's blog for weeks, couldn't we?

Lori, thanks for sharing your beliefs, especially about Tikkun Olam. The idea of improving and repairing the world, not for potential reward, but just because it needs doing, feels just right and is very appealing to me.

I think the ripple effect of all that we do goes on and on and on, far out-living our existence on earth. One of my favorite memories of my maternal grandfather (who died 39 years ago) is of him and my mother in the kitchen at Thanksgiving making sage dressing. Now for you Yankees, dressing at Thanksgiving in the South is what we have with the turkey, NOT what you put on top of salad! In our family, we make Thanksgiving dressing from cornbread and season with sage. Mother would add all the ingredients, stir it up, and ask my grandad to taste it. "Is this enough sage, Dad?" "No, I think it needs a little more." That was the interchange until both were satisfied with the taste; then it was baked and the aroma would fill the kitchen and the entire house. YUM!

Now, in my recipe file is a stained 4x6 inch card entitled "Dad's Dressing". It doesn't say how much sage....just "to taste". When I make dressing at Thanksgiving, I ALWAYS think of my grandad and my mother sharing their love as they got that dressing just right every year.

Now my daughter makes sage dressing for her family. Maybe someday, our granddaughter will make sage dressing. Where will the memory of my grandad end? Where will the sage dressing tradition stop? I don't know. What I do know is that the love will never, never end. It will go on and on and on. That is the ripple effect of my mother and my grandad in the kitchen making sage dressing every Thanksgiving.

Lots of love and peace to all of you.

Sent by Sandra Shuler | 10:19 AM | 7-16-2007

Today's post just affirms my belief that the personal Creator God is in control of our lives and our times. We are in the Hands of Him who made us and gave us life.

In Sept 2000 I was told I had 6 months to live and was told the same thing in November 2005 when I had the mets to the bone.

Scriptures say He has made all things beautiful in His time. He holds our lives in His hands - in Him, we live and move and have our very being.

That is so comforting to me. We are finite; He is infinite.

I have no claim to fame except in the hearts of my grandchildren and that is why I'm here. When I'm gone, God will still be there for them!

Love and Blessings to all today!

Sent by Vicky(NY) | 10:20 AM | 7-16-2007

Right on the money again Leroy. My wife and I have talked and felt lucky that cancer gives us the time to reflect, to make sure the people we want to see and touch are seen and touched and that everything is in order before we die. The car accident victim doesn't have that time; the IED victim in Iraq doesn't get that time; the people on the airplanes September 11th didn't get that time, although the folks on flight 93 MADE the time.

So cancer gave us a luxury that sudden, unexpected death doesn't give, and we're thankful for that.

Sent by Alan Cardenas | 10:20 AM | 7-16-2007

You have left a great legacy with this blog. I am a 33 year old oesophageal cancer sufferer. I think that cancer at least gives us a chance to try and change things and say goodbye. I live each day trying to make the most of my wonderful new husband, I hope that I make him happy, just in case it takes me from him. I am still too fatigued to do much else but hopefully love is enough.

Keep up the good blog, thanks for the thoughtful conversation,

Aoife

Sent by Aoife | 10:26 AM | 7-16-2007

This was a good post. I have been thinking about this for a bit. There is a website called 43things.com, (I am not related to this site at all.). It let's people post the 43 things they want to do. I think we should start a group to post there. We can tag all of our posts with "Leroy's Army" or something, and we can share our 43 things.
I like the idea of "Leroy's Army", we are all in the same fight, and through this blog he has taken a leadership role (which I don't know that he is truly aware of...), and we should acknowledge that with something special.

Sent by Brit | 10:40 AM | 7-16-2007

What a great thought to start out the week - a day well lived. This reminds me of my favorite movie "Pay It Forward" and also of a commercial currently running on TV where a person does something kind for someone they encounter which is seen by another person who turns to help someone else, and so on. I don't even recall what the commercial is 'selling' but it inspires me each time I see it. What a different world this would be if we all did these random acts of kindness throughout each day. I will make that my goal today.

Your daily blog has made such a difference in so many lives. You are living your days quite well, Leroy. God bless you.

Sent by Dianne in NV | 10:41 AM | 7-16-2007

Dear Leroy,
There are moments in life that give me pause - when the beauty of what I've just experienced washes over me and slows my heart and mind. Your words this morning came to me that way. Thank you.
Scarlett

Sent by Scarlett Harris | 11:08 AM | 7-16-2007

Loved your post today; it made me think of something. Our neighbor???s house had the foundation crack, and it stood totally abandoned for about 2 years while they gradually took everything out. They had literally compiled so much stuff that the foundation couldn???t support it all??? Anyhow, eventually, they had to have the wrecking balls come and knock down the house. My neighbors had lived there for decades ??? over 35 years ??? and raised their kids there. I happened to be coming home when it was being demolished, and when I turned the corner, my neighbor was standing there with a tear in his eye. He put his arm around me and said something like, ???you spend your whole life building ??? your houses, careers, egos ??? and it only takes a few minutes to knock it all down.??? Was really touching??? and very true.

Sent by CLK | 11:22 AM | 7-16-2007

Thank you, Leroy, for your deeply thoughtful messages. I have been reading your blog for several months and in the middle of this time period have had my own "cancer scare" which is as yet unresolved. When at my darkest moments I visualized all of the people (and animals) who care for me surrounding me with love. I hope that you and all others feel the same sense of being surrounded by love every moment because it is really true.

Sent by Joan | 11:26 AM | 7-16-2007

I remember reading about a research project that sociologist (and Baptist preacher) Tony Campolo once conducted, with people over the age of 90. The interviewers asked these very elderly people, ???As you look back on your life, what do you wish you had done differently???? Three answers emerged from a sizeable majority:

1) they wished they had risked more;

2) they wished they had spent more time in reflection; and

3) they wished they had done more to leave a legacy: something to pass on to the next generation.

Most of us, I'd expect, have seen the bumper sticker ??? usually on the back of some expensive RV or luxury car - that chortles: "We're spending our children's inheritance." It's a joke, of course -- but, I don't think most people truly look on life that way, especially not as they move further on into their 80s and 90s. The desire to leave a meaningful legacy - one that is more than merely financial - is widely held.

I don't think it's about having our name engraved onto some physical object, either. The anonymous sculptor who carved the Venus de Milo created a work of art for the ages - yet no one remembers the artist's name. The sculptor's legacy continues, all the same.

I do so appreciate what Sandra Shuler wrote, upstream, about multiple generations of her family making sage stuffing at Thanksgiving. What a beautiful image! Together they are crafting a legacy, and that's a beautiful thing. It's a labor that's much bigger than one person: and, as generation succeeds generation, it no longer has any one person's name attached to it.

Amidst all the inconveniences, indignities and pain we cancer survivors have to put up with, we do occasionally receive a gift from out of our affliction: the opportunity to ponder what impact our life will ultimately have, years before most other people's thoughts turn in that direction.

Thanks, Leroy, for getting such a fruitful discussion going, around this topic.

"A Pastor's Cancer Diary"
http://www.cewilton.blogspot.com

Sent by Carl Wilton | 11:35 AM | 7-16-2007

Well said Leroy, Well said!

Sent by Linda Jacobs | 11:57 AM | 7-16-2007

Leroy,

As as hospice volunteer, I was sitting at the bedside of a 71 year old Vietnamese man a couple of weeks ago.He was in the last stages of colon cancer.

He was a boat person in the Seventies and was, when I met him, unresponsive except to pain and touch. He had moved to Kansas to find work after eleven years in a concentration camp built during the fall of Saigon. He had lost a wife and four children. He spent the rest of his life doing honest work for honest pay and never had a family again.

He will not make it into the history books, but I will never forget him. I am so grateful for the few hours I was able to be with him before he died. They blessed my life.

I believe that the loving we give and receive stays after we are gone and continues down the generations to touch other lives in ways we can't even imagine.

Sent by Diana Kitch | 11:58 AM | 7-16-2007

With this blog, I think you are getting right at the kernel or heart that lies at the center of all these past months' discussion. Cancer has taught us in a way most people can't quite grasp that we are going to die --and possibly very soon. Eventually, we and any accomplishments we might have had will be forgotten, as if we never existed. So - was there any meaning to our lives? The only answer I've been able to come up with is that the way we touch other people's lives each day, whether remembered or not, is "what it's all about." Or as Rumi said, "This moment is all there is." Believing that, you'd think I would never waste a precious moment on anger or irritation or self pity, but lately I've been indulging in some of that. So - thank you, Leroy, for the reminder to focus on what matters.

Sent by Doris | 12:06 PM | 7-16-2007

We can't know what we will leave of us when we die, just that chances are, in just a couple of generations, whatever good effects have fanned out from our good acts (or bad effects from our bad acts) will be probably not connected to our name in any way.

Honestly, I read this post after expressing some long held back frustration to my husband about a recurring issue in his behavior in our life together. And he didn't want to hear it. And the first thing this made me feel was maybe I should have just kept quiet--would I have kept quiet if I knew this was my last day on earth? I don't know. But I'm left with thinking that sometimes a day well lived is just being where you are and sharing what you've got to share. I don't really want to be remembered as a saint, just as me. A person who's going to take up a little space while she's here and hopefully give as much or more as I ask in return.

Sent by N.R. | 12:07 PM | 7-16-2007

Reminds me of the theme of my favorite movie: It's A Wonderful Life. Caring, sharing, helping people, making lives better, cancer, or no cancer.

Sent by Kathy C | 12:18 PM | 7-16-2007

Leroy,

I read your post everyday and I do not have cancer. I am going to school for nursing and read because I think it's invaluable information for anyone in the medical arena. The documentary was amazing and I feel that reading your post everyday gives me a better understanding of what my future patients will go through. Thanks for being honest and open about this cancer world.

This topic was touched on during the documentary, but I would really like to know how those of us in the medical field can do better. It would be interesting to hear other's stories of their (or family members' or friends') good and bad experiences and tell why they were good or bad.

Today's post was especially good for anyone to read, cancer or not. "I think all we can hope for, all we should strive for, is a day well lived." All I can say is "Amen" or "Ditto".

Thanks again and know that I'm thinking about you everyday. Take care!

Allison

Sent by Allison K. | 12:19 PM | 7-16-2007

Leroy,
I love to listen to your voice. I look forward to the podcasts so that I can hear you and read along. Your voice has told me so many stories about our world over the years and you seem so familiar to me (sorry, I didn't know your name then, just your voice.)
Now I'll go think about MY legacy to the world. Thanks

Sent by Deb | 12:19 PM | 7-16-2007

Amen and thanks, Leroy. Again you hit me right in the heart!
Charlotte in Temecula

Sent by Charlotte Kewish | 12:39 PM | 7-16-2007

It is that awareness of limited time that sharpens the clarity of all of us on this journey.

I have been fortunate to be a primary teacher for the past 29 years. I love what I do and I hope that in some measure I am touching and helping to shape the future through the excited and curious eyes of 8 year olds. Their joy at even small things reflects back to me and reawakens and revitatalizes me.

Hope you all find some small joy today amid a day well lived!

Sent by Lesa in MO | 12:41 PM | 7-16-2007

Well said!

Sent by Sandy | 1:04 PM | 7-16-2007

Thank you for your post today, they are all so touching and appropriate to how I feel.
Today was a good day for me, my cat scan showed my liver mets have not grown and things remain stable.
You are right, today is a gift for me and I plan to live it& cherish this day.I even have hope for tommorrow.
Thank you and bless you, Linda

Sent by Linda Dundore | 1:16 PM | 7-16-2007

Dear Leroy, You and your blog is the gift/legacy to the world. A co-worker of my daughter wrote me a very caring and thoughtful note and said that my daughter was my legacy as she was a reflection of the kind of person I am and what better legacy could someone leave behind.

Sent by Vicki (FL) | 1:25 PM | 7-16-2007

Sometimes I wonder what my 15 year old will remember about me. Should we plan great days of fun and adventure that she will remember always, after I'm gone? Then will she remember more of the day than me?
I think what is most important is just being a good daddy, who is here for her while I can! In the end we will all be remembered by the ones who loved us most in our lives, the rest I don't care about.
I hate cancer for cutting our time togetther!
David White

Sent by David White | 1:44 PM | 7-16-2007

Leroy, Are we living on borrowed time, or do they just over estimate so the can say, he fought so well. I guess, in a sense we are all living on borrowed time. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, man everyone was scared this would be the end. Unlike, that crisis, we can't negotiate or way out of cancer. Time walkinh with a friend, along the river, with the dog, takes on a whole new meaning. Say Hi to Dan, Stan

Sent by Stan Wozniak | 1:47 PM | 7-16-2007

It seems so many postings have been written for my husband and I. We have just returned from 2 weeks in the Rocky Mountains and will pick up the "reality cycle" on Wed. with an appointment to learn more of the new clinical trial he will begin. Your thoughts and words continue to tell us we are not alone in the life process that his cancer has magnified and defined.

Sent by Gretchen Kovac | 1:52 PM | 7-16-2007

A wonderful reminder as I return to work today. I hope each day I can work to effectively represent populations that often don't have a voice. Although, actually all I've done today is shuffle through two weeks of paperwork.

We all know that you giving us a voice each day demonstrates your effectiveness and a day well lived for you. Peace

Sent by Dona | 2:00 PM | 7-16-2007

Leroy, there's a word that I don't think we understand, nor can convey, that which leaves a trace, but yet is carried with us after we drop our bodies. And that which is expressed in your blog every time you write to us. It's really all that is important and expresses itself in form, yet is found only within. That is love. Thank you for the love you give to the world through your words, Leroy. With gratitude for your presence in our lives.

sheron - denver

Sent by sheron owen | 2:57 PM | 7-16-2007

Leroy Sievers,

You've sure made a difference in the lives of those of us who've been fortunate enough to read your Nightline e-mails, and this wonderful legacy of writings about living with a serious illness. Thank you! Always, Kate K.

Sent by Kate Kelly | 3:23 PM | 7-16-2007

Thank you Leroy! I will print this and keep it on my refrigerator and share with relatives and friends. We only know the now, and to make a positive difference in other's nows is the way I want to live the rest of my life. Keeping you in my prayers.

Sent by Linda (breast cancer survivor) ~ Cleveland | 3:26 PM | 7-16-2007

Always right on the mark, Leroy! We must broadcast our thoughts about what we need to read in this blog, and you just make the words work. Many thanks, friend. Pat Z.

Sent by Pat Zalewski | 3:41 PM | 7-16-2007

Leroy,

Thank you. Very good post.My thoughts and prayers are with both you and Laurie.

Dorothy

Sent by dorothy | 4:10 PM | 7-16-2007

Hey Leroy,
Another thought well stated. I agree with you completely. A day well lived. Be a participant, not an observer. I had spent far too much time plotting and waiting to start my life, then realized what am I waiting for?
You seem to have been living your days well, and I expect you will be living your days well for quite some time.
Stay safe, stay strong,
Lance

Sent by Lance Carlson | 4:19 PM | 7-16-2007

I've read your blog since the beginning and I often speak of it to my friends and family. Since I don't have cancer they often ask me what I get out of it. There is is something to be learned daily from your thoughtful articulate entries, but today's entry sums it up perfectly. Thanks.

Sent by Susan | 4:37 PM | 7-16-2007

Leroy,
It is provocative to wonder what legacy each of us leaves behind. One human life...who will it matter to and for how long? I think writers, artists and musicians have the edge because what they create can live long after the creator is worm food. That's assuming, of course, that others will want to read, see, or hear what we created in our time.

Of late, I have come to realize that an exploration into family history can make the past lives of our clan resonate for their descendents. In my case, it is the lives of the women in my matriarchal line. My great great grandmother came to Boston from Ireland just after the famine years. There is so much I don't know about her, but persistance has given me more glimpses of her life and her daughters who came after her.

I never thought this sort of thing would fascinate me, but after my own mother died 2 years ago, I picked up the information she had gathered and took it further, including my first trip to Ireland last year.

This recapturing of legacy is not just for me. It is for my brother's children and my sister's son. Part of a lasting legacy is that someone down the line who finds worth in it and strives to pass it on. In my case, I discovered a great great aunt who, like me, never had children. But she nurtured her sister's children and helped them get a good education.

As a result of that devoted aunt, my grandmother earned a masters degree at a time when many women in the midwest never entered college at all. And her 6 daughters all went to college and earned their own degrees. That devotion to education is a family legacy I value greatly and now I know who to thank.

I am writing down what I learn about my ancestors so the next generation and their children's children will still feel that link to our past family members. When I found the graves of my pioneer great great grandmother and her husband in Nebraska, I thanked them for the legacy they left to me and my family. What brave souls they were and what hardships they endured.

Keep the family story alive and the lessons will resonate with future generations. It did with me.

Sent by Carol Ford | 5:02 PM | 7-16-2007

Thanks Leroy. Don't ever doubt the impact of your words.

Sent by Teri Thomas | 5:16 PM | 7-16-2007

Yes! This reminds me of the ethical wills and legacies that people are creating to share the *real* treasure they have distilled or been the conduit of in their lifetimes. Thank you so much for today's essay, Leroy!

As for planning ahead, I loved the quote from Winston Churshill???s Painting as a Passtime: ???When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting, and so get to the bottom of the subject. But then I shall require a still gayer palette than I get here below. I expect orange and vermilion will be the darkest, dullest colors upon it, and beyond them there will be a whole range of wonderful new colors which will delight the celestial eye.???

Sent by Sarah | 6:21 PM | 7-16-2007

Remember the moments that take our breath away...today's blog was one of them!
Thank you!

Sent by Laurie H. | 7:18 PM | 7-16-2007

A few weeks ago, I saw a woman in a noisy crowded restaurant, pale, thin, handkerchief hiding little hair. I immediately thought of you and your words, and suddenly I was filled with overwhelming emotion for this woman and for everyone. I immediately hugged my children closer to me even though just a few minutes ago I was scolding them for being so rambunctious and noisy.

That is the power of your words on a person you've never met, living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, miles away from you. With all the horrible violence in the world, its hard to remember humanity at it best. Thank you for reminding me -- you are being human at its best.

Sent by cheryl | 7:32 PM | 7-16-2007

Dear Karen,

I am so sorry for your loss, and I am certain your father has done or said many things that have made a difference in the lives of other people. I think this is the whole point, we never know what we say or do will be the message someone needs to hear at "just that moment in time" when they need it most. I know there have been things said to me that I did not actually
"HEAR" for a long time after it was said, but I heard it at exactly the time I was supposed to. I believe we leave marks on the lives of others each time we interact, sometimes it is positive, sometimes not so positive, but it has a lasting effect.

I think I measure my success in the way I have lived my life in knowing I have done all I could to help someone who needed help, even if it is to listen or to hold their hand when they need comfort. I would like to be remembered as a compassionate person, if nothing else. Because of this illness, I can say one very good thing that has come from the experience, learning to listen and to try to hear what people are saying with the heart, which is not always the same as the words that come from their mouth. I have gained more empathy and I believe it is because of something I heard many, many years ago -- "We Give Best What We Need Most"!!!

My condolences to your family and friends and I know there are many lives richer for his presence during his life and for a long time to come.

Love, Briana

Sent by briana | 8:05 PM | 7-16-2007

Leroy,
Thanks for being here, doing this and being you. You are loved my brother, well loved by us all.

Peace

Sent by Liz Zimmerman | 9:00 PM | 7-16-2007

While I do not have cancer, I was recently diagnosed with a serious heart condition that if not treated would have eventually killed me. Today's blog resonated with me because, I, too have thought much about the value of each day and if I died tomorrow or next week, would I be satisfied with how I had spent recent days. Have I truly lived a day worth living - have I let people know I appreciate them, have I made a difference (small or large) in someone's life? I think we all would wonder about that if we stopped to think about how tenuous our connection to life really is. Anyway, thank you for providing such a thoughtful, reflective and supportive blog. I'm sure you've made a remarkable difference in many lives.

Sent by patty | 10:34 PM | 7-16-2007

Hi Leroy,
I just stumbled on to your blog tonight. I agree with what you have written about living each day well. I too have cancer...stage four lung cancer. I've lived three years and my life has never been so rich with meaning and purpose. But these things have not come to me without much struggle. I have learned the hard way that living each day well, requires much more than I can humanly accomplish...something greater is needed...on my own, I fail miserably, though I try very hard...I also think fear plays a devious role in the life of a cancer patient and so fear is my biggest enemy, not cancer. As I learn to let go of the things I used to fear losing, I come to the one thing i won't ever lose...and then I have peace...fear and anxiety are vanquished.
Blessings,
Jen T.

Sent by Jen Totushek | 10:44 PM | 7-16-2007

Leroy- you have obviously touched all of us here and those outside of this blog with your words. I do agree with you - the thought of what one leaves behind is meaningless compared to the ability to live in the now. It is strange how that diagnosis forces us - forced me, to engage life. And I suppose I've done more living in the past two years than I ever did before. There is no procrastination, there is nothing so fearful that I will back down. There is love and wonder and gratitude for the privilege of every day. And today I am grateful to you for sharing your words - from my perspective yours was a day well lived. May you have many, many more. Thank you.

Sent by L. M. Ross | 10:56 PM | 7-16-2007

I just have to piggyback on Carol Ford's posting and say that I, too, have found genealogy (digging up ancestors) to be a moving experience. And it never used to interest me at all! I thought it was all about self-important people trying to build themselves up by claiming connections to high-faluting ancestors. But what I found was that little by little, we piece together bits of information until we can blow away centuries of dust and bring back our long-forgotten ancestors. Amazingly, by getting in touch with others who are descended from the same folks, it's often possible to see our ancestors' photographs, hear stories about their outrageous behavior, and sometimes even read their own words in old letters. So -- if you've got time on your hands, I strongly recommend spending some time in online genealogical research. Your ancestors will spring back to life right before your eyes.

Sent by Doris | 11:06 PM | 7-16-2007

Dear Leroy,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about the struggles and meaning of life while you battle this insidious disease.

You have helped me in dealing with my own battle with cancer. I had all these fears and anxieties just floating around in my head causing me great stress. Then I saw the TV special and read your blog, and you have a gift with words and thoughts. You helped me organize my thoughts and fears which gives me the strength to deal with them.

God Bless You!

Matt

Sent by Matt | 11:34 PM | 7-16-2007

And that, my friend, says it all...

Sent by Betsy | 12:58 AM | 7-17-2007

I forgot which exact program, 60 minutes or 20/20. But there was a story about a remote island of people who survived the big tsunami. Their language didn't have a word for "tomorrow" and none of them knew their own age. They seemed perfectly content and happy just living in the moment.

Sent by Scott Fertig | 2:29 AM | 7-17-2007

Leroy,
Several days ago you posed the question, "what treatment should I go with next?" Isn't it truly amazing how much is unclear in cancerland? What happened to I broke my arm, now set it?!

I hope you can do what you always do...do your homework, give it the "sleep test" and trust your gut. Your instincts don't have cancer!
All my best for your hope and healing.

Sent by Jill | 2:53 AM | 7-17-2007

I love your theme for today. I don't have cancer, or any other so-called "terminal illness". But life is a terminal situation. I started to really think about this some years back when I visited a needy senior in my community. When I went to her home and rang the bell, she let me in but there was not a place to sit or to be. Every nook and cranny was stuffed with the "memorabilia" or "detritus" of her long life. She was somewhere in her 80s. I was at once fascinated and horrified. She had a story for every item there and began to tell me about the events that caused each item to be there. That very day I awoke to the realization that when we pass to the next world, the things we leave behind will have to be "cared for" (disposed of) by our relatives. I resolved that very day (some 10 or more years ago) to spend a few hours a week paring down and saving my heirs the trouble of disposing of all the things that would mean nothing to them (and which I wasn't using) -- keeping only the things I actually use in life and releasing those I actually don't. I'm astonished to say that in 10 years I haven't made a lot of progress, but I'm still working on it. I'm still cognizant of the fact that I have WAY too much stuff of little value or meaning, which should be disposed of before I pass. Will I succeed? I don't know. It's too late for fame and forture, but I surely could do my relatives the favor of leaving the smallest footprint possible. Thanks for reminding us about some things that really are worth passing on. Funny how little space they actually take up.

Sent by Dawn Whitehead | 3:18 AM | 7-17-2007

Morning Leroy:

Sorry for being MIA for the past few days. Exam is finally over (thanks to all who sent their well wishes!, and now in the midst of crazy packing!

You wrote this piece (as you do with all your pieces) so well. And your last paragraph hit the nail in the head, so to speak--the message about living in the present. You can't change the past, or worry about the future, but you can live your best in the present.

I know with cancer, there are a ton more 'unknowns' throwing a wrench into the life machine, but I really do believe, and know that you are doing an amazing job living day to day to the best of your ability.

Everyday you write and share your innermost thoughts... everday we get to learn a little more about 'Leroy Sievers'...everday, I know I will admire you, your courage, and your honesty.

As stated in the past... you and your readers came at an important juncture of my training....and for that, you and this blog will always be a part of me.

You know, while I was in the middle of studying, and wanted to throw my hands up in the air and say, 'why why why'...I took a printed out copy of some of the comments from you blog...and said to myself... this is 'why why why'.

Everyone here has impacted each other in some way, shape, or form.

I hope you are doing well.. and that Laurie is doing well.. please give her my regards.

Krupali

Sent by Krupali Tejura MD | 7:33 AM | 7-17-2007

Oh Leroy~ This was one of your best pieces! Think that you have reached the "point of purpose" of why you are going through this dread disease and effects.
I have been gradually coming to this point for the last couple of years now. Accepting my own mortality and feeling comfortable with it. This is quite a journey isn't it? And oh, how rewarding.
Personally my own dealing with cancer, losing an only baby, wrestling with the "Whys" of my very existence here in this crazy world.
Now, at this stage I realize that I have become a better person through adversity. No time for pettiness & arguing 'cuase time is too precious to waste.
Leroy can we be discovering the true meaning of this life? You certainly have done so much to help others and make us think hard about ourselves.
Thank you and together we shall all lean on each other, talk, and grow. After all, the only things that the wonderful folks of the past have left us are THEIR thoughts, ideas and experiences. WE can do the same!

Sent by Jeanne C Rakowski | 7:52 AM | 7-17-2007

Thank you and bless you for these fine words. It is important to make that difference no matter how big or small. Your writing has helped me get through my cancer recurrence with courage and hope.

Sent by anne lumberger | 8:47 AM | 7-17-2007

My husband died of a brain tumor three months ago. The doctors gave him three months, then six months, then one year, and then the unfortunate news the tumor started to grow again. In anticipation of removing some of the tumor(debulking) complications set in and he died at home within a month.

The thing Bill used to say to all of us was how He didn't want the people he loved to go through this. He would continuiously say how sorry he was to put us through this....I always thought he meant the death itself but as I continue to live through this journey of life, I came to realize it was not the dying he was so worried about but the aftermath. The memories, the laughter, the hugs and kisses, the twinkle in his eyes that we all miss. What brave people we are to carry on his memories, his values, his love for mankind. We truly miss this great man for all he has given us.

Sent by Gail Hunsberger Rochester,NY | 9:01 AM | 7-17-2007

Dear Krupali,

When you ask yourself why, why, why, I hope you will remember my message to you earlier regarding the value of your attitude and compassion helping those to fight the good fight in this awful process.

You give me hope to keep going in my quest to find the proper attention, and I could only hope and pray to find someone of your caliber, willing to go the extra mile and pay close attention to the total person when treating your patients. We are not just numbers on a chart, we are flesh and blood, with beating hearts that feel, so intensely, and I can on wish I will be fortunate enough to find a "Krupali" out there who will listen to my plight and know I am a human being in need of assistance. As each day goes by in my search, I think of you, and find hope in knowing there is someone out there that will live up to the commitment of the oath you have taken and when I find them, your name will be foremost in my mind when I can finally say THANK YOU!

Please give my regards to your father, that special man who loves and believes in his daughter so much that he instilled the values in you necessary to warrant this continued respect and admiration, which I am certain is shared by many others. He, too has my honor and respect for his wisdom in encouraging you to be the BEST THAT YOU CAN BE, and I know his heart swells with pride every time he finds himself grateful for the fruits of his labor.
I know you will continue to teach, by example, the reasons the vow to honor their commitment to the OATH is so desperately needed.

Have fun in your travels, and I hope to be talking with you soon.

Love, Briana

Sent by briana | 1:38 PM | 7-17-2007

As I've been reading your blog, a thought keeps recurring to me: what is doing this blog doing to you? That's worded harshly, I suppose, especially since keeping this blog is clearly doing things for you as well. This is what I mean. You write that cancer is at some level always there, in your mind as well as your body. But surely it can occasionally sink into the background, at least a little, giving way to living the rest of life. How does writing this almost-daily blog affect that possibility for you?

I think about my mother, whose chronic illness affects every part of her body and requires daily attention. She has days, maybe even a few days in a row, when she.. doesn't forget about it of course, that's impossible, but isn't focused on it either. Days when her enjoyment of what she is doing isn't consciously tinged with thoughts about how it is affected by her illness, when her physical limitations are simply there instead of consciously considered. Days when she doesn't feel that she's been redefined by her condition, and doesn't actively think about its progression. Those days seem like good things, to me; I don't know that she could have them if she had made the commitment to sit down every day and write about it, and on top of that read other peoples' reactions.

Not too many of us have a job that revolves around contemplating our biggest problem, at least not one of this sort. Do you ever wish you didn't have this blog to pull you back into it?

Sent by Suzanna | 1:39 PM | 7-17-2007

Leroy, I suppose we all have these thoughts. Following is a question offered in a Cancer Survivors' Network web page setup, followed by my answer:

What have you learned from your experiences that you would like to share?

If you are going to live, you might as well enjoy it. Laugh, smile, help others to laugh, to smile. If you are not going to make it, laugh, smile, help others to laugh and smile. That is probably the best thing you can leave behind - joy.

And, Leroy, there is this from a recent letter to one of my younger brothers:

Regarding the prospect of dying, the first thing that came to mind for me was that I do not want to die. The second thought I had was, what can I do to prevent my dying. And the third thought was, what can I do to delay my dying. The other thoughts, those you imagine would be among yours, they are the thoughts of those around me. Me, I have the ghostly midnight dreams of people and places I thought I had forgotten, and I have the waking desire to have perfect days, which is not possible.

Sent by Joe Alvey | 4:02 PM | 7-17-2007

This is so elegantly written and thought provoking. It is not what we leave behind, however immense or small, but the life well lived each day. You touch and inspire so many lives, Leroy!
Gratefully,
Karen Quinn

Sent by Karen Quinn | 5:11 PM | 7-17-2007

Leroy,I'm a long time reader,but a first time poster to this incredible blog.When I read your words last night I could not be silent any longer,I knew I had to respond.You see,you verbalize many of the thoughts we all have, when we wake up at 3 am. in the morning and am unable to sleep.At first I thought not being able to speak candidly about these thoughts was because of the fear of embarassment,We wonder will every one think We am crazy?But when you are staring your own mortality in the face all other feelings and emotions pale by comparison.You know,those of us who do not have cancer often feel guilty because we all know *but for God's grace..there go I.Ultimately I believe,we have to recognize that each new day brings us closer to our last one.That is our "kinship"with those of you battling cancer.
Driving out of town this morning I listened to a song I have heard a thousand times,but after reading your Blog on Monday the words of the song became morn meaningful..I didn't think I could Love this song more than I already do,but I was wrong,and I am kind of glad.Here are a few sentences from my very favorite John Denver song:

"The days they pass so quickly now
Nights are seldom long
And time around me whispers when its cold
The changes somehow frighten me
Still I have to smile
It turns me on to think of growing old
For though my lifes been good to me
Theres still so much to do
So many things my mind has never known
Id like to raise a family
Id like to sail away
And dance across the mountains on the moon
I have to say it now
Its been a good life all in all
Its really fine
To have the chance to hang around
And lie there by the fire
And watch the evening tire
While all my friends and my old lady
Sit and pass the time away*

Anyone who knows John's music understands the last sentence was changed a bit..but the message is loud and clear..Life is good..but life is fleeting..enjoy your life today.None of us have the promise of tomorrow..
May you be blessed as much as you have blessed so many of your readers Leroy!
My Teams Relay for Life site has a link to this Blog.It has become as important as morning coffee and the Sunday paper.

My prayer for you is for many more tomorrows!

Sent by Allecia Alicea- Hershey Pa. | 10:49 PM | 7-17-2007

OZYMANDIAS
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

wish i had written that! people in the west seem to forget that we all must die, as if ignoring it will make it go away. thnk you for your thoughts. i hope you stick around for a while yet.

Sent by martin harison smith | 8:41 AM | 7-19-2007

Dear Leroy:

I hope you don't mind me skipping the "Mr. Sievers" as I feel as if I know you. I have been reading your blog for just a few months, but listening to your commentary on NPR since it began. Each time I hear you, or read what you have written, I am so impressed. You are such a good writer and a truly amazing person. You know how to effectively convey both the emotions of your heart and the humor in your head. I chose this particular soliloquy of yours to respond to both because it was among my favorites of those you have crafted and it was appropriate for what I wanted to say in return.

I know that cancer has changed your life, but your having cancer has changed all of our lives...and, I assure you, for the better. Your words make me more conscious of the things I say and do in my daily life. You make me evaluate my own bad habits and want to do something about them that will signify that I choose life with the same gusto that you have. You make me wish I knew you on an in-person basis, instead of just as a 'virtual friend'. It's selfish--what friendship isn't?--but I think to myself, if this person can affect me from cyberspace how much more could they do if they were actually in my circle of friends?

You make more of a difference in people's lives than you will ever know. And your writing this blog is more of and a greater public service than so many others I can think of, worthy though they may be.

Thank you for being you and sharing yourself with all of us.

Donalyn Carlson

Poulsbo, WA

Sent by Donalyn Carlson | 12:15 AM | 8-7-2007

About

Support comes from: