I didn’t know, when Lance said very softly “I love you Nan,” in the early hours of June 8, 2012, those would be his last words.
Later, as I was holding his hand and he was unable to communicate anymore, he squeezed my hand three times. I wondered to myself: “Is he doing ‘the thing’ we have done for 16 years? Three times meant ‘I love you.'”
So I squeezed back, four times, “I love you too.”
That was the last communication I had with him.
To some, my husband’s passing felt sudden and shocking—his decline was quick. In fact, he died exactly one month after we returned from a retreat at the Ann Wigmore Institute in Puerto Rico.
He worked up until two weeks before his death and even held a sales meeting—for Justin’s Nut Butter of Boulder, CO of which he was the president—at our house, a week before he died.
He was never in pain until the day before he died and for this, I am eternally grateful.
Lance was given a very dismal cancer diagnosis back in January 2011 but I truly felt in my heart, as did he, that we would beat this. In fact, he commented just days before his death, “I never thought this would get me.”
When we received a bad MRI last March, I was still hopeful against all odds—but also feeling like I might have to face a harsh reality. Lance was pretty determined until two days before his death, which is a testament to who he was.
The thoughts and details I personally struggled with during those last few months were difficult for me to always share with Lance, because I was trying to take his lead; I wanted to be the person he needed me to be—his cheerleader, supporter and partner-in-hope.
But, when you are faced with the possibility of someone dying, you can’t just stand passively by if the worst does happen.
My only wish was to make the very end as peaceful and natural as possible. My goal was for Lance to not end up in a hospital—cold, isolated, sterile, behind closed doors and so not Lance. If he was going to die, I wanted him to be in the comfort of our home and around people who loved him.
With a stroke of luck, and the love, dedication and unstinting help of friends, we made that happen. Next, I was looking at the process after his death which can often look like: whisking the body away, funeral homes, embalming—all cold, weird and not Lance.
I wanted Lance to go Lance-style—and boy, did he ever.
Lance (forever my teacher) left me with some powerful lessons about both life and death in his final days. I decided to share these lessons, not only because it is cathartic for me, but because his death was something incredible, as close friends witnessed. It helped demystify death, which, by all accounts, felt like Lance’s last gift.
While there are no amount of words to express how much I wish Lance were still here—and how I know the worst of my sorrow is yet to come—his death and three day ceremony to follow, were magical and unforgettable.
His last ride to the Shambhala Center—in his ’68 Ford pick-up truck, with seven guys gathered around him, as I drove—was just one of many extraordinary events that happened over those three days.
When Lance and I started our blog, our goal was to share the insights and lessons we learned throughout this experience, hoping people will make changes without facing an ending like ours. I will continue to share those teachings because I feel passionate about them, and because it is one of the ways I can honor the amazing and one-of-a-kind man who was my husband.
When her husband was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, Nancy Gentry, already devoted to a healthy lifestyle, took it to a whole new level. Between juicing, sprouting and wheat grassing, she shared their journey and all the lessons that a terminal illness brings. Life lessons. She has inspired thousands on her blog, www.lovelaughveggies.com, to change their eating and life habits and has recently returned to her life coaching practice, focusing on health, wellness and life choices which she believes, without a single doubt, has a direct and major impact on one’s health. While her husband passed away this past June, Nancy is determined to make this her life’s work and mission to help others change their lives one step at a time.
Editor: Jennifer Spesia