Doctor Asks Terminally Ill Children What Made Their Lives Good. Grab The Tissues.


RachelKiser_200TallRachel Kiser
Blogger | Mom of Two


Perspective. We could all use some, right? Until I read these tweets from Alastair McAlpine, I was frustrated with my stuffy nose, the lock on my front door being difficult to open, and the mess of dishes in the kitchen. In the past few minutes, though, those things seem appropriately miniscule.

Dr. McAlpine, a palliative care doctor in South Africa, decided to share a question that he posed to his terminally ill patients, who are all children. The question is (get your tissues ready now, because you’ll need them): What have you enjoyed in life? What gave it meaning?

“First of all, not one terminally ill child said they’d wished they spent more time watching TV or on Facebook,” McAlpine wrote.  “None of them enjoyed fighting with others or being in the hospital. And many wished they’d spent less time worrying about what other people thought.”

Huge takeaway: All of the kids absolutely loved reading with their parents. Being read to and the stories they are told are some of the most important things kids cling to.

Another solid life lesson: kindness and compassion do not go unnoticed. On the contrary, they are the things that stick with people until the end. Your actions can be life-giving. You don’t need to be the smartest or the prettiest; children remember gentle hands and compassion.

And, maybe most gut-wrenching of all, a lot of the kids expressed worry for their parents after they are no longer with them. How children who have been through so much have the capacity to feel all of these things, and still be so concerned with the sadness of others is amazing. We could learn a thing or two.

If this doesn’t make you want to run and check your kids right out of the attendance office at school, I don’t know what will. If you’re anything like me, these things will stick with you for a long time to come. Although it’s difficult, these are important truths to let sink in. There are things that matter, and there are things that definitely don’t. I hope we can keep our eyes on the big picture.

The children Dr. McAlpine interviewed were between the ages of 4-9. If you’re wondering what makes someone dedicate their lives to sick and dying children, he simply said it’s because he noticed people didn’t quite seem prepared for what to do with dying kids. “The best part of my job now is that I get to meet these extraordinary children and families. I walk a special road with them,” he said.

His advice to all is this: “Be kind. Read more books. Spend time with your family. Crack jokes. Go to the beach. Hug your dog. Tell that special person you love them. These are the things these kids wished they could’ve done more. The rest is details. Oh … and eat ice-cream.”




RachelKiser_200TallAbout Rachel Kiser

Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.

View all posts by Rachel Kiser here.

11 Comments on “Doctor Asks Terminally Ill Children What Made Their Lives Good. Grab The Tissues.”

  1. This really puts things into perspective! It’s the little things that our kids enjoy the most and it’s so important to be present for them!

  2. Wow,how precious! Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful story. I have 6 children I was blessed with and stories like this do bring me to tears.

  3. Very nice advice. I always believe in spreading kindness all around and try to teach my kids to be kind to others leading by example. Yes Family time is The BEST time.

  4. I am going to be buying a LOT more ice cream! I can relate! I am grateful for the time I have with my child. I know she feels loved when she has my undivided attention and feels that I am present with her. That is what feeds our connection and bond. I know she cherishes our time together too. I am mindful that the moments we spend truly engaged with each other are what makes our lives so good. I feel every day is a blessing and I want her to feel that in her heart too. As her role model, I try to show kindness towards others every day.

    What an amazing doctor to appreciate what these families are going through and having a special role to play with them.

    1. Thanks for sharing!There truly is no bond like that between a mother and her children 💕

  5. I love reading all those tweets. Yes I believe in being and spreading kindness everywhere. I always try to teach my kid how to be kind to others. Its very important.

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