To know or not to know…

If you could find out when and how you were going to die…would you want to know?

(If you did not watch this week’s Grey’s Anatomy, but are planning to you should stop reading here so as not to spoil it.  Also, I apologize in advance for the somewhat depressing and morbid nature of this post.)

So this week Grey’s dealt with a patient who had Huntington’s disease and Meredith decided to get tested for the Alzheimer’s gene.  Derek didn’t want her to find out her results, claiming that it didn’t matter if she had the gene or not.  It started me wondering…would I want to know if I was going to get a disease like Huntington’s or Alzheimer’s or ALS? 

Well, what would knowing do for me?  Nothing really.  I mean, there is no cure for any of these diseases and treatment options are very limited.  Basically, it’s a death sentence…and sometimes, an early death.  It’s not like knowing early would give me options to help me avoid the disease or prolong my life in any significant way. 

So I started to wonder…what would I do differently…how would I live my life differently…if I knew I was going to die? 

A million things ran through my head at once…spend more time with my family…travel…finally marry J and have kids…open a bakery…run the NYC marathon…finish renovating the house…rekindle friendships…get closure…write a will…let the people in my life know what they mean to me…

The list went on and on…and the I stopped because it occurred to me that I should be doing all of these things anyway.  I shouldn’t be waiting until death is staring me right in the face in order to do the things I’ve always wanted to do.  Because we are all going to die someday (I know…so cheerful for a Monday morning…sorry).  Maybe I’m going to be lucky and live until I’m 100 or maybe I’m going to step off the curb this afternoon and get hit by a bus. 

It’s a total cliche…but I should be living every day like it’s my last.  I should stop putting off all the things I want to do and start making time to make sure I do them.  I think I’ve taken a good first step with my 101 list.  Now I just have to make sure I keep that momentum going.  I have to make sure I keep it in the front of my mind that today is as good a day as any to do something that I really want to do. 

I’m lucky enough to not have a family history of diseases Huntington’s or ALS, so it’s not something I’m overly worried about.  I do have a family history of Multiple Sclerosis, though and it is something that I’ve always been worried about.  There is no genetic test to determine whether you are going to get MS, but they are working on it.  I always thought I’d want to be tested.  Now…well, now I don’t think I would.  I think I would become fixated and consumed with worry and that minor tingling I get in my fingers every now and then would probably become a cause for a major panic attack. 

For now, I’m happy just living my life and whatever comes will come.

So what would you do?  Would you want to know?  What would you do differently if you did know?


  1. Ahh yeah I just watched that episode yesterday. It did make you think. I always thought if I found out I had some terminal disease that I would automatically just quit my job and do fun stuff all the time. But who knows? I don’t know if I would want to know ahead of time but it does make you want to live a more full life now.

  2. I hate surprises, and death is just another looming surprise. I would definitely want to know – that way I could plan for it (and there is nothing I love more than when a plan comes together).
    I think the only thing that would change would be dependant on the “when” – if it was soon, then I would quit my sensible job and not worry so much about working for a secure future, and I would do something that I loved. If it wasn’t until I was much older, then I don’t think much would change at all…

  3. Ooooh…this is a hard question! I don’t think I’d want to know. I hate surprises, but death is one of those things I’m fine with letting be a surprise. I feel like, if I knew, I’d spend my time feeling pressured to get EVERYTHING done, and being in a state of perpetual stress is no way to spend the rest of your life.

  4. This is such a great post, Shana. Sometimes it’s necessary to explore these darker topics, too (even if they do come on a Monday).

    I think your 101 list is a great start and shows you have much you still want to accomplish while here on this earth. I wouldn’t want to know if my life has a deadline, because I would think about dying rather than LIVING my life.

    I have a friend who always says that he feels the need to tell people often how much they mean to him and how grateful he is to have them in his life. At first I thought it was kind of bizarre because I wasn’t accustomed to having someone say those sorts of things to me… but then he opened up about his sister dying very suddenly and how regretful he was that he had never said those words to her. We take this all for granted, but it can all be taken away at a moment’s notice.

    Sorry, my response is also a bit heavy-handed but your post makes me think of all the things I have yet to accomplish myself.

  5. I would not want to know if I was going to die.

    Because I have no grand gestures I would like to make. No big things left undone. No messages to be passed along. Nothing.

    I would like to live my last days as I live my current days. As though nothing loomed ahead. Sip my coffee. Kiss my girls goodbye as they go off to school. Read a book. Make love to my husband. Fix a meal. Call a friend.

    I want to do my last days as I do all of my days.

    I love my days.

    And any one of these days? Would work as my last day.

    If that’s what comes to pass.

    So no . . . I don’t want to know.

    I only want to know each day.

    That I get another day.

  6. Some wonderful responses to a very valid question. I definitely don’t want to know…after all I could die in my car tomorrow. If you seen how poorly I drive in my senior years you would probably agree and hope you were not in my rear view mirror.

    It is true life is at it’s fullest when we live each day as if it were our last! The peace is knowing I am ready, with no regrets, whether it is today or 20 years from now, my grandparents lived into their 90’s and one was 104.

    I am not sure I want to be here that long but gosh I have grandson’s sports events to go to. The opportunity to see their lives unfold makes me think I would enjoy hanging around as long as my mind stays healthy.

    In my lifetime I have seen incredible changes;
    telephone in my home, now cell phones,
    indoor plumbing, heating and cooling,
    a bus to take children to school (I walked no matter what the weather),
    TV, internet, air travel, a man on the moon, horrible wars,
    and morals change from Elvis banned from wiggling on TV to todays media content of let’s get naked and talk dirty.

    …so much change in such a short span of life I think I shall enjoy watching this new generation explore, invent, and hopefully work hard to bring peaceful change to our ever smaller world.

    Think what you will have seen and experienced when you are my age and it gives you a special joy to live each day.

    Shana I love your thought provoking posts and thank you so much for featuring Creative Chics for your apron giveaway…it will be shipping to the winner tomorrow!!

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