Jim Stanicki: An Online Inspiration on Dying Well

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Hodgson said that, in developmental psychology terms, these discussion boards allow people come to terms with death by fostering their integrity.

"These sites provide a forum for a person to share their wisdom with others, and this in turn allows them to a reach a level of 'detached concern' with life in the face of death," said Hodgson.

Having worked as a software developer for many years, Stanicki also understands the importance and effect of social networks.

"I think the greatest thing that computers and Internet and communications have done is remove the geography problem from people communicating with each other," Stanicki said. "Most of the time, more than anything people want to do is communicate, and this gives a way for other people to get that communication, support and sharing."

Now, Stanicki encourages his Inspire friends to appreciate nature and be sure to breathe some fresh air. His days are filled biking with friends on bluebird days, puttering around his 10 acres of land in Maine, baking bread and not keeping a schedule.

Online Sharing Can Lead to Acceptance

But any way you shake it, most people would plainly say that dying is scary. It is, he said, no question.

After reacting flippantly to his diagnosis, Stanicki, a man of reason and not too much faith, said he allowed himself to look at his disease for what it was. He looked at it until he cried.

"It's hard to accept something and not be defeated by it," said Stanicki.

But he has done just that.

On Tuesday, Nov. 16, Stanicki wrote a post titled, "When does the end of life experience begin?"

He wrote, "I can no longer put things off. I no longer can save it for later. Everything I mean to accomplish needs to happen soon. Everything I want to say must be said now."

In response to his post, one Inspire member wrote: "Jim...every post of yours I've read I've enjoyed...two words or two sentences...always right to the point...I hope to continue reading you and enjoying you...thank you."

Another person wrote: "Jim- You are one amazing man and I can see why you are so loved on here. God bless you!"

Sandy Kintz, an Inspire member who often contributes to the lung cancer group, was alarmed to see Stanicki's end-of-life posts.

"I sent him a private message just asking what was going on, if he was OK," said Kintz, who was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer six years ago. "It's always hard to lose someone on the site, so I was worried when he started writing that."

Kintz and Stanicki have never met in person, but Kintz said that many people look after one another as if they're old friends. When a member dies, the others grieve the loss of that person, just as any friend would. The members often have candlelight vigils in their memory.

Worries aside, Stanicki said it makes him happy to know that his words offer rays of hope.

"People say I've really helped them deal with the idea of dying and their demise," continued Stanicki. "Nothing feels better than hearing, 'you've made this easier for me.' "

"As it turns out, my life's calling is dying," he said. "It's a hell of a thing, isn't it?"

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