When my father-in-law was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, his oncologist informed him that he had six months to live. I was in the room with him and would never forget the shock on his face. As he lived his last months, I wondered what went through his mind, but I was afraid to ask. I did not know if he were comfortable to talk about it. Unlike my father-in-law, Julie Yip-Williams opened up about her metastatic colon cancer and revealed intimate details of her life as she faced her death. She accepted her faith and spent her last days planning for the future of her daughters and husband. She wanted to make sure they will be taken care of without her.
In addition to her terminal illness, Julie shared her extraordinary story. When Julie was born in Vietnam with congenital cataracts, her grandmother decided to let her go in her sleep because she didn’t wanted her granddaughter to go through life being blind. Julie escaped her first death and fled the country on a boat when the communist took over. Although she was legally blind, Julie proved that she was capable of doing anything. She graduated from Williams and Harvard, traveled the world, and raised a wonderful family. Although cancer shortened her life, she lived every moment of her limited time. She was strong, compassionate, and brutally honest.
What struck the chord with me is not how long you live but the quality of your life. I can’t take my time on this earth for granted. Life is too damn short, and I don’t know what will happen to me tomorrow. Through her own story, particularly her relationship with her daughters, she reminded me to love and to spend time with my kids while I still can and do not wait before it is too late. It’s a tear-jerking, gripping, and inspiring memoir that will have a long-lasting impact on me.