Nfld. & Labrador

Only regret of man who wrote own obituary? Not knowing how Coronation Street ends

A Newfoundlander's self-written obituary offers lasting lessons on how to live life to the fullest.

Shannon Churchill, 44, goes out in style

The late Shannon Churchill and his wife, Melissa Churchill, spent the months prior to his death trying to check off as many bucket list items as they could. (Submitted by Melissa Churchill)

A Newfoundlander who died after a long struggle with colon cancer has left behind a master class on how to go out with style. 

Shannon Churchill, who was living in Cole Harbour, N.S., when he died, addressed his death head-on by writing his own obituary

"My advice to you all is to make those bucket lists and to start filling them in. Life is short and it only runs out; I should know, I was only 44," he wrote. 

"So get off your butts and live those lives while you still have them and make sure you really think of what you want to matter on those last days."

Shannon made the most of his last few months.

Shannon died peacefully Jan. 31, with his wife, Melissa Churchill, by his side.

"His goal was to hopefully help inspire people to see what's really important in life," she said. 

"It's not what you have, it's not running around stressed, it's really just taking beauty in the simple things and embracing life and embracing experiences."

On Monday, Shannon's obituary went online and immediately started resonating with readers for its unique perspective and inspirational message.

"Life was always about the things I was able to do, and not about what I had," he wrote.

"I married my best friend. I was in a cage with a lion. I got to spend many years of enjoying the freedom of motorcycle riding. I visited my second home of Ireland. I spent as much time as possible with the people I cared about, and the list goes on."

Both Melissa and Shannon Churchill were big fans of Corrie. Melissa said he joked about the show in his obituary because as fans know, having first started in 1960, it's not likely to end in any of our lifetimes. (CBC Media Centre)

His only (tongue-in-cheek) regret in a life lived to the fullest? 

That he'll never find out how his beloved Coronation Street will end. 

Made the most of last days

On Nov. 3, 2017, after four years of living with cancer, Shannon was told he had only a few months to live.

Born in St. John's, he spent the early years of his life growing up in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Although he moved to Nova Scotia with his parents in 1990, he never thought of that province as home.

"Newfoundland is and always was home," said Melissa Churchill.

Melissa and Shannon loved spending time together in St. John's. Here they are at a wedding in Bowring Park. (Submitted by Melissa Churchill)

The couple travelled back countless times to visit his family, and to see sights like Signal Hill, Gros Morne National Park and have his favourite meal at Ches's Fish and Chips.

While Shannon never did get back to his hometown again, he made the most of his time left.

As soon as he knew that his cancer was terminal, Melissa said he started making a bucket list of all he wanted to accomplish before it was too late.

It took the help of the whole community sometimes, but Shannon managed to fit in an awe-inspiring amount of experiences right up to his final days. 

Some of the things he did in his last few months?

1. He got in a cage with a lion!
Melissa says Shannon always loved animals, and he had a great time coming face to face with a lion at the Oaklawn Farm Zoo in Aylesford, N.S. (Submitted by Melissa Churchill)
2. He drove both a Zamboni and a $400,000 Ferrari. 
A lifelong fan of cars, Shannon also got to take this Ferrari out for a spin before his death. (Submitted by Melissa Churchill)
Here's Shannon taking a rip around the ice on a Zamboni at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax. (Submitted by Melissa Churchill)
3. He had one of Halifax's finest bartenders make him the city's best piña colada!
Do you like pina coladas? Shannon sure did. Here he is trying out Halifax's best. (Submitted by Melissa Churchill)
4. He sat in with an air traffic controller.
Shannon got to take a seat in an air traffic controller's chair at the Halifax International Airport. (Submitted by Melissa Churchill)
5. He was inspired by an episode of one of his favourite shows, Land and Sea, and shadowed a sea harbour pilot.
After seeing an episode of Land & Sea in December 2017 on sea harbour pilots, Shannon was given the opportunity to ride one as it guided a ship into port in the Halifax Harbour. (Land and Sea/CBC)

According to Melissa, the fact that people jumped at the opportunity to help facilitate these experiences was all a testament to the type of person Shannon was. 

"When you put good out into the world, you get good back," she said.

"Shannon always did that, and that was the way he was even before he had cancer, and after he had cancer, all the way up until he died."

It goes without saying that Shannon left his mark on the world.

As he neared the end, Melissa said he never stopped trying new things

"Every day I didn't know how it would go down, but he would always rally … he would find a way to make it happen," she said.

She plans to visit Newfoundland to scatter some of his ashes, and continue spreading his message to others.

"Seeing what he's had to face with such courage and such bravery and with such a zest for life … he has taught me how to live," she said.
Read Shannon Churchill's full obituary. (In Memoriam)

About the Author

Andrew Sampson is a journalist with CBC News in St. John's.