Goodbye to Clocks Ticking: How We Live While Dying

In May 2021, at age 67, three days after teaching his last class at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire and looking forward to a busy, active retirement in a cabin on the coast of Maine, Joseph Monninger (Game Change) received a diagnosis for the shortness of breathing he'd recently begun experiencing: inoperable lung cancer, which had spread through his body and would likely kill him by September. An author and fit outdoorsman who hadn't smoked in 30 years, Monninger was stunned to hear this grim prognosis and began to figure out how best to live in the little time he has left. He captures these experiences in elegant, spare prose in Goodbye to Clocks Ticking.

Like many people facing imminent death, Monninger begins to appreciate much that was easy to overlook, like watching birds at the feeder and simple moments with his girlfriend, Susan, and with fishing buddies he's traveled with for 40 years. He also wryly observes how his life has changed in unanticipated ways: "I realized... I would never need to buy another piece of clothing." He has thoughts of ending his life. 

But then a kind of miracle occurs: because of an unusual gene mutation he has, Monninger can receive Tagrisso, a drug that likely will extend his life by years and enable him to end chemotherapy. The drug has the desired effect and soon Monninger is again readjusting to life, limited in some ways, but now with a happier prognosis. A trip to Nebraska to see the migration of sandhill cranes in the spring with Susan becomes a kind of glorious, beautiful symbol of his new opportunities to enjoy life. --John Mutter, editor-in-chief, Shelf Awareness

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