Let me get straight to the point. I am dying.

While I know that we are all dying, I will be gone in a few short weeks. While, like most people, I thought that my expiration date was a long way off, it has come upon me much to my regret. I do not want to die; yet I can do nothing to prevent it.

So let me tell you how this feels. When many years ago my teenage self asked my grandfather what it was like to be old, he said that he felt the same inside as he did when he was 18. With death, it is that way with me. I feel the same as when I was not facing an imminent death. Mind you, this feels unreal; as if I am still immortal.

Let me also address the question of religion. When I was young, I was told that there are no atheists in foxholes. The idea was that when people are forced to face their mortality, they always renew their belief in God.

Although this sounds plausible, I knew it was not true. Again this owes to my grandfather. Most of this life he had been an atheist. This did not change at the end. He remained an atheist and, as he told me, he was comfortable with the life he had led. Death did not terrify him.

Nor does it terrify me. I don’t like it. It scares me, but so far I am handling the fear. Unlike my grandfather, I am an agnostic. I do not know if there is a God or a heaven. If there is, I guess I will find out. I also hope that if there is a God, he will be merciful enough to forgive my inadequacies.

Anyway, let me deal with what I find the more salient aspects of dying. First, as to the physical aspects of this process, my death is being caused by inoperable pancreatic cancer. Over the course of a year, I have fought this as valiantly as I know how, all to no avail.

At the moment, I can neither eat nor drink. This means that within a few weeks I will expire due to malnutrition. In other words, I will starve to death. While I am sure this will be uncomfortable, at present all I feel is a little hunger.

This worries me, but I am more concerned with something else. My legacy is much more on my mind. When I wrote my autobiography "Too Lazy to Chew," I explained how important it has been for me to understand my life, as well as to understand our shared social life.

As to coming to terms with who I am, I believe I achieved this far more effectively than most folks. As I have said, I am comfortable with who I am. Although there is always more we can learn about ourselves, I discovered enough not to bewail the empty chapters.

As to our social life, it is a different story. This is so complicated and so resistant to the influence of individuals that the best we can usually do is to make our voices heard. I believe I have achieved some of this with my columns, and to a lesser degree with my books.

Herein lies the rub. If I may be vain, I am convinced that I have learned things from which others may benefit. Precisely because I am a conservative sociologist, I have been able to walk down pathways my liberal colleagues eschewed. This made me aware of facts they disregard.

The question then became, how do I get my observations into the mainstream? Sociologists would not listen; hence I decided to turn to laypersons instead. This I have to some extent been able to accomplish on the local level. As to the nation at large, I have made no impression whatsoever.

With respect to my books — with the help of Anazon.com — I have been able to get most of them into print. In other words, my ideas are now available to be read. The question is how to get people to read points of view with which they are not familiar.

This is where I have run out of road. Although I plotted how I might publicize my endeavors, there is no time to put these plans into action. All I can do is hope that some folks stumble over my insights and turn them into programs that make a difference.

The fact is that I will not be here to see what happens. Will Trump triumph over the squad? Will America eventually become socialist? Will someone else rediscover my ideas after I am gone? I do not know. I will probably never know. This is why the end of my road leaves a hole in my soul.

Melvyn Fein is professor emeritus of sociology at Kennesaw State University. He lives in Cherokee County.

(4) comments


Melvyn, Your column has been the first page I turn to when I open the Ledger for so many years. I hope you will find much deserved peace in knowing that you have impacted thousands of lives in a very profound way. I truly believe that even many who don't agree with you have often been given food for thought and reflection. For myself, you will contine to be one of the voices in my head. Thank you for your thoughts, insight, timely wisdom, provocative analysis and your occasional messages of hope and compassion. I am going to miss you... A lot. God Bless!


I have traveled the same journey after my heart attack. I came across this which i have converted from the plural to the first person, "I ask for blessings, I ask for strength, that I can pass it on to others. I ask for hope that I may give it to others, I ask for health given to me, that I may encourage others. I ask for wisdom that I may use these gifts well." I too know that the accumulated awareness I have must be given as long as I am able, the ending will never occur as long as the memory remains.


I wish you comfort and peace. You will be missed.


I am very saddened to hear this, Mr. Fein. I have enjoyed reading your views and often thought provoking columns over the years. I will be praying for your comfort and that you will come to know Jesus.

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