SADDLE RIVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Conversations about death are sometimes uncomfortable.
Until you meet someone like Dave Woods, a terminal patient with the ability to give us all a new perspective.
“I’ve gotten the impression that people want to re-tell their story,” Woods told CBS2’s Steve Overmyer in this week’s Snapshot New York. “So I want to be an attentive listener.”
Woods volunteers at hospice. His connection runs deep.
“If I walk in and establish a report, and when I leave they feel lighter, they feel that somebody cares – I’ve accomplished what I sent out to do,” he said.
Overmyer: “Just to become a bit of a soothing salve on this experience, more or less, right?”
Woods: “I think that’s a good way to describe it, Steve, I really do. I’m not a medical professional, I’m not a theologian, but I am someone who can relate and cares.”
He’s also someone who knows exactly what these patients are going through. Every time he walks into Villa Marie Claire in Saddle River, New Jersey, he is reminded that one day one of the rooms will be his.
“Whenever people will say, ‘What’s going on here (gestures to his eye)?’ and that will open the door for me to share, ‘You know, I have cancer, too,’” he said. “And I didn’t immediately jump on the internet and find some obscure treatment… It wasn’t like that. I said, ‘OK, dying is part of life.’ The mortality rate is 90 percent within five years. So my prognosis is not good. So I think this will be what brings me home to heaven.”
Four years ago, cancer took Woods’ eye. But his vision of life is clear.
“He felt he had more to offer for people during this time when he recognized his total life expectancy was limited,” said Dr. Charles Vialotti, medical director of Villa Marie Claire.
Overmyer: “Every moment, when you’re a terminal cancer patient, is cherished. He’s choosing to spend these moments helping others. What does that mean?”
Vialotti: “Well that means, I mean I guess his basic personality is of a nurturer, a giver, a consoler, a comforter. But I believe he’s getting some satisfaction from this, too.”
His tactic is simple: Sincerity and a guitar. There’s no empirical evidence that shows music extends life, but it clearly improves the quality.
Overmyer: “Most people, if they see the end of the road coming, will have a bucket list.”
Woods: “Yes, I don’t.”
Overmyer: “Why don’t you have a bucket list?”
Woods: “Maybe a lack of ambition, or I’m too lazy. I’ve had a good life. I really don’t feel that I’m going to go leaving things undone.”
You can always find a moment of beauty in whatever you have left. And if we learn to love those moments, we learn to live well.
Woods is undergoing surgery next Tuesday, and his family will decide the next steps from there.