Radio Show

What If You Had Three Months to Live?


After an interview on the Busted Halo Radio Show with Edie Littlefield Sundby, who, after a cancer diagnosis, was given three months to live with less than a 1% chance that she would survive but who has gone on to live for many years, Father Dave asks Brett what he would do if he had been in Edie’s situation.

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“The cliché but easy answer is that I would spend time with my family,” Brett says. “I’ve traveled the world, so I don’t have any exotic location that I need to see. I’d just need to spend time with them.” The only other thing he says he would consider pursuing in those three months is seeing if he could get married and try to conceive a child in that time so he could “leave a legacy.” He says that this presents a moral quandary, though, as he’s not sure that his girlfriend would want to go down that road, “knowing that she would lose [Brett] shortly thereafter.”

Then, Brett turns the question around on Father Dave, who says, “We’re having a theoretical [conversation, so] who knows if I’d feel exactly the way [Brett] described [about not wanting to travel, but instead] spend every remaining moment with my sister, or my religious community [of Paulist Fathers] who would be supporting me. But if we’re here in 2017, and I’m spitballing, I [would say] travel.”

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Father Dave recounts a story from his time as a chaplain on a cruise ship when he gave a passenger “viaticum,” which is the last Eucharist that person receives on Earth: “There was one time [that the] cruise director called my cabin and said [that a passenger wanted me to come and visit her in her room]. So, I get there, and it’s an older woman and her daughter, and the daughter said, ‘We came on this cruise, we knew it would probably be mom’s last cruise, and we were hopeful that she’d be able to get out of the cabin and do more things. She wanted to come to Mass, but she isn’t really able to get out.’ I was looking behind her and there were all of these oxygen tanks [that had been coordinated with] the medical personnel on the ship. … So when I showed up, the older woman was in a black dress with pearls, sitting at the dining table — they had a pretty big suite that they had — and so, we talked a little bit and prayed a little bit, and I gave her Communion, and she died the next day.” (Original Air 07-21-17)