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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Petty

002 Lessons for Life from a Decade of Death

A Conversation with Jane Davis--Widow, Suicide Survivor, Single Mom, Health Educator, and Ultrarunner


What matters most after what mattered most is taken away?

That’s the big question we sought to answer in this interview with Jane Davis--widow, suicide survivor, single mother, health educator, and ultrarunner. Jane happens to be my neighbor, and over the past year and a half my wife and I have gotten to know her and her story. She immediately came to mind as a perfect guest to have on Andrew Petty is Dying.

This conversation will move you, inspire you, and equip you with insight and strategies for making the most of every day. And from Jane’s personal experience, you’ll learn what matters most when what mattered most is taken away. Let her story change the way you live before Death forces you to.

Jane’s story is a remarkable story of hope, tragedy, grief, and triumph. She lost her husband to cancer shortly after they got married and her father to suicide in 2018. Her experiences have taught her just how precious today is, and she models that in her everyday life. The Intro on her Facebook page says, “Super grateful mama who loves to run far, travel and squeeze every last drop out of life!!!” That tells you something about how Jane lives today as a result of the gauntlet of sorrow that she has passed through.

Jane’s Story: Journey to the Darkness and Beyond

In our quest on Andrew Petty is Dying to tap into the power of our Mortality to become who we were made to be and live the lives we were made to live, we “go there.” We go to the hard places, the sad places, and the dark places because when we fail to go there now, we pay a much higher price when we’re forced to go there later. And when we are willing to courageously “go there” now--to deal with Mortality preemptively--we find new light for living more meaningfully today. This is the rare conversation that we must have if we’re to become who we were made to be and live the lives we were made to live.

Jane’s story has some really dark and tragic parts. Listen to the episode to hear Jane’s full recounting. One of the things that struck me as we talked was that at one point Jane was crying and smiling at the same time. Because Jane has journeyed through the darkest parts of life and found the joy beyond. The grief and sadness remain, but she has also acquired new resolve to live joyfully and meaningfully NOW.

Running Really Far on Purpose

Jane is an ultrarunner--the kind of runner for whom a four-hour training run is normal and a 50+ mile race is routine. Running has been part of her life for a long time, but it wasn’t until her husband died that she discovered that running is more than a hobby--it’s part of who she is. Today running has become an essential part of how Jane lives and heals and thrives. And when she runs an “ultra,” her husband and her father are with her “every step of the way”--literally. Listen to the episode to learn how. Jane also shares practical steps we can take to find a pursuit in our own lives that serves the same deep purpose that running serves in hers.

What Matters Most Now

As our conversation unfolded, it became clear that Jane’s journey through a decade of death had changed how she lives now in these specific ways:

  1. She is aware daily that “time is short, and moments are brief.”

  2. Discomfort is good if we’ll let it be. It helps us get to know ourselves and others better. Be OK with getting uncomfortable. Stay in the uncomfortable moments with others because they create “deeper connection with another human being.”

  3. She welcomes conversation about death and dying. It’s not talked about enough.

  4. Before her husband died, Jane chased the typical American dream of professional ladder-climbing and acquiring stuff. Her daughter was in daycare while she worked. Now, Jane “chases” meaningful relationships and meaningful experiences. She moved to Steamboat Springs to follow her daughter’s long-time ski coach--so that her daughter could continue to benefit from that relationship personally and as an athlete. That’s a huge shift in priorities.

  5. Janes now prizes authenticity and vulnerability as keys to living well. She avoids anything that tempts her to live in an inauthentic way or leads to inauthenticity in relationships.

  6. If we fail to pause and slow down once in a while, we will lose connection with our unique selves and live according to others’ expectations.

  7. NOW is the time.

The Big Takeaway

I took a LOT away from this conversation: The power of human connection, the importance of slowing down, the value of being present in the moment, embracing and using discomfort, and more. The thing that stuck with me most, though, as I stood back and reflected on the whole conversation, was this:

Even Jane--with as much tragedy and death as she's experienced and as much resolve as it's given her to live differently as a result--even Jane has to work hard at keeping the main things the main thing.

Which makes it even more of a challenge for those of us who haven't encountered Death like Jane has. Which drives home the point that tapping into the power of our mortality is a mindset, a discipline, and a practice, not a one-and-done kind of thing. If it was easy and came naturally, more of us would be doing it. I for one don't want my life slip by unlived, and I'm betting you don't either.

You ARE going to die, but you’re not dead yet. So get after it!

How Comfortable are You Talking About Death & Dying?

How comfortable are you talking about death and dying: Not at all / Somewhat / Comfortable / Very Comfortable? Share your answer in the comments on this episode’s post on Facebook.

If Jane’s story impacted you, you can connect with her here:

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My purpose as a coach is to help you deploy your unique purpose in the world. I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, through my coaching website, or email me at

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