The next time you see someone reading Randy Pausch's horrible memoir about facing his own death, The Last Lecture, nicely take it out of their hands and replace it with Miles Kington's vastly superior How Shall I Tell the Dog? and Other Final Musings.
When he was told he had pancreatic cancer, British humorist and writer Kington responded the way a writer responds to everything: he wondered if he could get a book out of it. Written in the format of a series of letters to his literary agent Gill, this book finds Kington wishing he'd learned to yodel, working out his feelings about the knowledge that his dog will outlive him, and suggesting all sorts of final books that he might write. He opens by describing to Gill how he got his diagnosis:
"But they then spotted some trouble in my bile duct and decided to insert a plastic pipe to open up a small blockage. Then they decided to take out my gall bladder. When they did that, they spotted some irregularities in my liver and pancreas, and decided to take some samples, and it was after looking closely at those that they decided I had got cancer. Nosey parkers.
Cancer of the pancreas, it was. This was unfortunate, because, as a doctor friend of mine said to me, 'That's not one of the nice ones.'" (p. 9.)
That is so typical and British and perfect and funny and sad all at once. The entire book continues much like that (although some of the references are a bit too British for me to understand, but that's a small problem), until it ends, much too suddenly. Much as, Miles Kington might have said, did his life.
It's a little book, and although it is so sad, it will make you almost happy. Weird but true. Do try it sometime, and have a copy on hand to lend to anyone who tells you that you have to read Pausch's book.