I have come to know a man that knows the approximate time of his death. He is trying to stretch the number of days that he has left - to attend his son's wedding in England, to reach 55 years of age so his pension will vest, to enjoy his wife and family for a few more weeks/months/years. D is a senior executive, working for one of the major clients of my investment banking firm. We were in New York recently, trying to generate some acquistion activity for D's employer. It was a very unusual business trip. D was very open about his impending doom ("All care that I am receiving is pallitive; a cure is just not going to happen. I am a dead man walking."). He had to leave one of our meetings to rest in his room. He said that living with cancer treatment is like waking up with a severe hangover every damn day. We had a long conversation over dinner; D told me a lot about his disease, his surgeries, his plans to put his affairs in order. I was pretty speechless - the enormity of his situation, the energy he has managed to retain in the face of this cancer was quite stunning.
I also received word that one of my ex-wife's siblings has just been diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer that is usually fatal. My two older (adult) children from my first marriage will be dealing with this.
Well, every individual is in the process of dying; everyone has numbered days. But most of us don't know how large or small that number is. My client and my former in-law have a pretty good idea of how much life they have left. I would think that many people that face this situation end up in a race against time - trying to clear all of those important matters that we defer when we think we have lots of time left (estate planning, reconciliations with estranged friends and family, etc.). I find myself hoping for a disease that will give me time to prepare for death.