Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher and his wife Judy spoke this morning in Neely as part of the Spiritual Development Speaker Series, sharing stories and insights from their 2009 book release, Life Is a Gift: Inspiration from the Soon Departed. The book features a collection of interviews and lessons learned from 104 terminally ill patients of Alive Hospice in Nashville.
Judy Fisher opened the convocation by recalling Adam White, the longtime boyfriend of the Fishers’ daughter. White was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on New York City, but the memory of how he lived, with passion and vigor, lives on. “He truly lived like there was no tomorrow,” Mrs. Fisher said, noting that his example inspired the book. “We were just left asking ‘Why doesn’t everyone live like that?'”
Dr. Fisher added, “[His death] broke our hearts. For awhile I didn’t understand what was going on with me or how I felt about it. Adam inspired us to take a fresh look at everything.”
From their interviews with Alive Hospice patients, the Fishers transcribed more than 400,000 words. The conversations with patients like 5-year-old Maddie or the 98-year-old man who spent his last weeks learning Hungarian followed a standard question-and-answer formula: What are you most proud of? What has been your greatest joy? What has been your greatest disappointment? What do you regret? If you could give one message to the world, what would it be?
According to the Fishers, a few common themes that emerged were relationships, faith, forgiveness and gratitude. “The community needs the dying to force us to think about eternal issues and to make us listen,” Dr. Fisher said. “These connections taught us so much.”