When I was a young woman, I went through a bad patch when doctors toldme I would never have children. Fortunately, they were wrong, and I amthe mother of three.

But I remember for a couple of years feeling as if I was the soleunfruitful female in a society abounding with pregnant women. Bulgingwith incipient life, these pregnant women jammed the supermarkets,crowded the church steps, even walked the byways of my favorite park. With envious eyes, I could see only these women.

Obviously, we see what we are looking for. One of my dear friends hasbeen told her cancer is terminal. Over the weekend, I asked her, whatdoes she see?

"People surviving cancer everywhere," she said. "In the newspapers andon television. We're told about the brave and the chipper, the ones whowent through horrid chemotherapy and kept their chin up. We never hearabout the ones who go through treatment and don't make it."

Well, that's not quite true, of course. But she does have a point.Average people with terminal illnesses who do not survive are not news.These people end up as we expected them to: dead.

Now Margaret (not her real name) is understand-
ably sensitive about hersituation. Although I have yet to go there and am not anxious to start,dying usually takes some time and forces the person into various mentalstates, from outright panic to quiet acceptance.

"Instead of telling me what to do and how to feel, why don't people dosomething for me, something useful?"

Right now, Margaret is stoic on the outside, but inside she is angry.Who can blame her?

What may surprise you is that her anger is directed toward bores. Shesays she is weary of chatter from people who don't relate to her as aperson.

"The most irritating people tell me 'pray hard,' as if I need to be toldthat. And if I pray and I'm still not cured, what does that say? Instead of telling me what to do and how to feel, why don't people dosomething for me, something useful? No one asks if they can go to thestore, for instance," Margaret said.

Margaret makes a point that many of us need to remember, particularly aswe grow older and reluctantly see friends and family dealing with fatalillnesses. We need to be brave and thoughtful enough to go through theillness with them, on their own terms. Instead, too often we tell themhow we presume we would act. What arrogance!

My friend is a long way from walking her last mile. She can be a bitdetached, almost academic, about her situation at this point. Forexample, she's tidying her legal paperwork, considering options whenshe's bedridden, trying to muster the inner strength to be helpful toothers facing end-of-life issues.

Margaret wants to be challenged mentally, to focus her attention outsideherself. Most of all, she doesn't want to be told how to walk the lastwalk.

While we celebrate the people who survive, reality is that many die,often surrounded by people telling them how to do it even though theyhave never been there.

American poet Phyllis McGinley noted about thedeath of St. Francis that he was surrounded by monks, one of themreminding the saint about the virtue of his suffering. As McGinleynoted, the monk's nattering only proves that "bores we have with usuntil the end."

Margaret, and every other person facing a final hour, deserves betterthan to be bored.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune. (c) 2000, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).