Carl Mays: 'One should count each day a separate life'

Mar. 01, 2013 @ 11:37 PM

If you have read many quotes at all, in either print or electronic media, it’s quite possible you have run across the name “Seneca,” which refers to Lucius Seneca, one of the often-quoted philosophers of ancient Rome. A Seneca quote that caught my eye recently is "One should count each day a separate life."

I encountered Seneca’s quote a couple of days after reading a reprint of a newspaper column that originally appeared in the Montreal Gazette in December 2010. The column was termed as a farewell address from Tony Proudfoot (1949-2010). Being someone with limited knowledge of the Canadian Football League, I had no idea who Tony Proudfoot was, but research quickly led me to see that he is a legend in the CFL.

Over a 40-year professional relationship with the Montreal Alouettes, Proudfoot carved out a special place in the hearts of Montreal football fans, first as a player who achieved all-star recognition, and later as a coach, advisor, game analyst and broadcaster. In May 2007, at the age of 57, Proudfoot was diagnosed with degenerative Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, which attacks the muscles and initially targets the motor neurons that control speech, swallowing and breathing.

Shortly after his diagnosis, Proudfoot wrote a first-person story for the Montreal Gazette. The account detailed the path ahead of him and presented his "bucket list," the goals he wanted to focus on in the three to five years doctors told him he had left to live.

Proudfoot then penned periodic columns for the Gazette, usually around Christmastime, updating fans and readers on his battle with ALS. He wrote his farewell address on December 16, 2010, just over three and one-half years after his diagnosis, saying goodbye and bidding farewell to his many fans, supporters, friends and admirers. He passed away on December 30 of that year. Below is an excerpt from that final column:

“The last time I wrote for The Gazette, in April 2010, I was anticipating that I might not make it to another Christmas. Here it is, early December, same year, and my circumstances are certainly clearer... I know this will be my last December update. Right now, I'm hanging on for Christmas, and it's a tough slog and not a guarantee... Let's recap the last few years of articles...

"In May of 2007, my wife Vicki and I received the devastating, terrifying news that I have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a terminal illness that typically runs its course in three to five years. That was not quite four years ago, and I now know I will not reach that five-year plateau. I put together my personal bucket list, not in selfish terms of travelling or seeing wonders of the world, but four personal goals:

Number 1: Support my wife and family and relish in their love and support.

Number 2: Make the relationships I have better, by being responsive to every friend, acquaintance and individual and each issue.

Number 3: Make a difference in ALS awareness and improve fundraising efforts.

Number 4: A very personal, positive mantra – Suck it up and get on with life (remember, no whining allowed!) and enjoy every day. What other option do any of us really have?

“With thanks to God, I can proudly say I've accomplished, and perhaps even overachieved, in each of these projects."

As Seneca said, "One should count each day a separate life." As we find in Psalms 118:24, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

© 2013 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author, whose mentoring site is based on his “A Strategy For Winning” book and program. Contact or view