End of Life – Jack Thomas reflects on his life, family and career

“I just learned I only have months to live. This is what I want to say.”

At Westchester Family Care (WFC), we often find ourselves helping clients and their families cope with end-of-life issues. Aging seniors and their adult children or loved ones tackle multiple dimensions comprising end-of-life:

  • Planning … getting business, financial, legal and personal affairs in order;
  • Clinical … physical and medical conditions;
  • Emotional … preparing to say goodbye, loss and grieving.

WFC is inherently involved with the clinical and emotional needs of our clients throughout the engagement. We also contribute significant added value by guiding clients through the web of planning issues. We functionally deal with these tasks routinely and have developed vital partnerships with experts and professional resources who know how to manage the planning process smoothly.

Jack Thomas is a longtime journalist and former Boston Globe reporter who has written a thoughtful and poignant essay after learning he only has months to live. Mr. Thomas is 82 years old and has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. His warm-hearted and honest piece covers highlights of his life, how he’ll miss ordinary things, and reflects on what he’ll miss as he faces his own death.

WFC celebrates the life of Jack Thomas and especially the bright light he is shining on how to have the end-of-life discussion. In our experience, we observe that all families handle it differently. Our efforts concentrate on helping our clients live their fullest lives and, at the end, providing comfort and peace to them and their families.

If Jack Thomas’s essay is to matter, we should not be afraid to discuss the end-of-life phase but rather embrace and plan for it. There is a need for greater communication between all parties, especially between adult children, their loved ones, and their care providers. Similarly, planning should seek out the resources available, like hospice, and other options that ease the way at the end.

Jack Thomas is still with us as of this writing. Here is how is handling his end-of-life moments:

Do The Things You Love and Enjoy Them

The essay fondly describes the things Jack Thomas loves about family:

“the smiles and hugs every morning from my beautiful wife, Geraldine, the greatest blessing of my life”

“hearing laughter from my three children”

And just as important, he recalls their raw reactions to hearing the news about his diagnosis: his children wept and his wife cries when she wakes up every morning. We also learn that one of his daughters searches the internet daily for new research, strategies and/or medications to battle his cancer while his wife “rolls up her sleeves and handles all doctor appointments and medication.”


He writes about stopping to smell the roses – literally. He is proud of his garden filled with rose bushes and hydrangeas and the joy he gets when looking at them out the window:

“the soft petals, the deep colors and aroma that remind me of my boyhood.”

Other simple pleasures include the beach, sailing and an eclectic appreciation of music, from Bach to Nina Simone. He points out the irony of a lifetime spent being careful not to overeat sweets and yet now he has effortlessly lost 20 pounds to the disease.

The Wonder and Miracle of The Fourth Estate

Jack Thomas writes reverentially about the “privilege” of working for newspapers for 60 years, including his days as a delivery boy at age 14. He recalls a bold headline from sixty-eight years ago declaring “Stalin Dead.” As if it were yesterday, he describes people waiting on their porch for details of the Russian leader’s passing.

He also recalls marveling at the coordination necessary to get a global story from a Moscow correspondent into the afternoon edition he was about to deliver on his local route. Everyone everywhere knew that Stalin died, moments after it happened.


Learn From the Elderly

As a reporter, Thomas himself had assignments about death and interviewed elderly people who had outlived the actuarial tables. He had an appointment to see a 104-year-old gentleman in Florida and when he arrived at the nursing home, expected to see a fellow “sitting around in a bathrobe, drooling.” Instead, he encountered a dapper dresser who was reading Bruce Catton’s history of the Civil War that had 1,680 pages. Another interviewee was a woman, 101 years old, who had outlived her four sons. They got to talking about the afterlife and, Thomas learned, she was annoyed with God and planned to give him a “piece of her mind” for taking her boys before her.

After Life

Remarkably, Jack Thomas is not bitter or angry about his dwindling days of life. He feels as if he’s been blessed with a “pause before death.” Thomas muses about meeting up with family members and icons alike and is already having imaginary conversations with them. To his father, he would apologize for stealing 25 cents out of his trousers 49 years ago and would report “…we finally got rid of that S.O.B. Nixon.”

He would “peel potatoes, cut onions and do dishes” for the chance to sit at Julia Childs’s table. And so, the conversations would go with jazzmen Dave McKenna and Earl “Fatha” Hines, with writer Jerry Murphy and with actor Peter (“Colombo”) Falk.

Jack Thomas ends the ‘obituary’ about his life gracefully:

“I had a loving family. I had a great job at the newspaper. I met fascinating people, and I saw myriad worldwide wonders. It’s been full of fun and laughter, too, a really good time.

I just wish I could stay a little longer.”


Westchester Family Care Inc. assists people of all ages, by customizing home care plans to maintain a healthy quality of life and safety at home.

Contact WFC for an immediate family need or when planning for future needs: info@westfamilycare.com, 914-764-7500www.westchesterfamilycare.com.

Westchester Family Care Provides Peace of Mind and Confidence that the Elderly Are Safe and Living with Dignity in Their Own Home.

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