Buckmaster: Life can change in an instant. Get your affairs in order.

Few of us are prepared when misfortune knocks at the door. We certainly weren’t in early June, 2023 when Ann, my wife of 51 years, was told she has an inoperable cancerous tumor of the duodenum. Cancer of the duodenum is rare. Less than one-half of one percent of all cancers settle in that small organ in the upper abdomen.

Even more rare, is this same cancer killed Ann’s only sibling, her older sister Betty, in July of 2022. After Betty died, we had talked about getting imaging on Ann’s abdomen.

I wish we had but at the time we thought there was no way lightning could strike twice at the same exact spot. Obviously, being told you only have a few months to live is not just a knock at your door, it’s a sonic boom.

Ann’s cancer blindsided us. We had just returned in May from a lovely two weeks in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean where we celebrated our wedding anniversary and started planning for our next adventure. With us, there were always a half-dozen places we still wanted to visit.

For nearly a half-century, we tried to take three annual trips. We covered tons of real estate that included one-hundred countries and every state. Even after Ann received the devastating news that early June morning, we still dreamed of one last visit to Hawaii, a place we loved. As Ann became weaker by the day, it soon became very clear our only travel was to the doctor.

Our dream of maybe one more year together quickly evaporated. It was time to “get our affairs in order.”

Like most of us, planning for the inevitable had not been a priority. It should have been.

Between the doctor appointments, Ann filled her final days doing what she loved: working. Her resignation was the week of her death. Colleagues praised her as a straight-talking professional, confident and smart, a force to be reckoned with.

I remember her as a brave and loving soul who honored me with decades of happiness. As I said at Ann’s Celebration of Life, we were made for each other. Ann died August 17. Diagnosis to death was only 10 short weeks. At times, my grief is overwhelming but I push forward one day at a time.

My hope is that others can learn from my experience. Life can change in an instant. Don’t wait for misfortune’s bang on your door. Get your affairs in order now and while you’re at it give a big hug to the one you love!