In the last few days alone, I have learned about three fellow pilots what have lost, or are losing, their battles with cancer. A good friend of mine from the Air Force will soon be put into hospice care to make his last days here on Earth as comfortable as possible. His doctors recently determined that he cannot handle any more chemo treatments. In the last four years, he has received about 90 rounds of chemo, radiation and several surgeries.
A UPS pilot I know, is battling a rare form of cancer called esthesioneuroblastoma. His stark reality is that he will likely lose his vision entirely within 6-12 months. Furthermore, his life expectancy is perhaps only two to three more years, barring a miracle.
Recently, another pilot I knew passed away from cancer. A friend of mine was at his bedside during the last moments of his life. Fortunately, he died in peace knowing that he had done all he could to ensure his family would be taken care of after he was gone. “He was happy and had no regrets,” my friend said to me.
I haven’t written this to depress or upset anyone. These situations are difficult to comprehend and it’s hard to know what we can do for our friends and loved ones in these difficult moments. I have written this because I know there are things our friends would want us to learn from their terrible circumstances. For starters (and I am preaching to myself here), I think they would want us to slow down a little, spend a little more time trying to create special moments and maybe spend a little less time working and striving.
I’m very much a planner in everything I do, and sometimes I struggle with being “in the moment.” I have a fear of missing out on that next achievement, the next goal, and sadly, maybe even the next dollar. Maybe I should trade in my next three-day trip for a lesser paying “two-day” so I can atttend my daughter’s homecoming festivities at her school. What is it worth, in dollar figures, to see my daughter during this special moment? Which is more valuable to her? I’m pretty sure I know how my friends battling cancer would answer that question.
Of course, there are other practical things we should do now to ensure that if we were in similar circumstances we could also leave this world with no regrets.
1 – Work to create special moments and great memories. Many people believe the quality of their relationships and memories are a better measure of wealth than their money. I tend to agree. No one on their deathbed ever wished they had spent more time working!
2 – Get the appropriate amount and the right type of life insurance for your circumstances. I think it’s a safe generalization to say that most people do not have enough life insurance. The amount of life insurance depends on several variables; your net worth, family dynamics, age, etc. Additionally, there is rarely a need for any type of life insurance other than term life. Do the math on the amount of life insurance you need and consult someone you can trust to help determine what type of life insurance is right for you.
3 – Make sure your Last Will and Testament and your beneficiaries are current. A new client mentioned to me the other day, “Every time I get in the car with my wife for date night, I wonder what would happen to our kids if we died in a car accident.” This is a terrible feeling. Let’s not wonder anymore and ensure that our wills clearly articulate what needs to happen in case of our untimely deaths. We know of someone who died and their ex-wife was the beneficiary on their life insurance. “We’ll never know if that was intentional or not,” said one of the family members.
4 – Make a financial plan. We end almost every article with this advice. The reason I think this is an important step in this context, is that almost every family, including my own, struggles with the following question; “How do we balance preparing for the future and still enjoy our time now while our kids are young and we’re healthy?” Financial planning will help clarify the answer to this question. Planning will help bring balance and confidence to our daily lives because we’ll know that we are doing our best to enjoy our time now, staying in the moment, while still giving ourselves the best chance at achieving our financial goals for the future.
Finally, I am going to give up my three day trip for a two-day in order to go to my daughter’s homecoming festivities. It’s the right thing to do and when my time on this Earth has come to an end, I want to be able to say, “I have no regrets.”