Over the years, I’ve watched several family members and friends navigate illness in their last stages of life. Never have I had the privilege of knowing anyone like John Haydon, who recently passed away at 53 after over two years of battling cancer.

When he was first diagnosed in December 2017, he started a Facebook group ‘Watch John Beat Cancer,’ which he used to update all of his friends in the nonprofit community on his condition. We all watched his videos as he described his efforts to continue to work while trying different approaches to treat his cancer. He used his Buddhist practice as a way to stay focused on living well, being grateful and being there for his many friends.

As time passed, we all realized that it was increasingly unlikely that he would survive this fight. But he always remained hopeful as we offered our love and support. In an interview shortly before his death, John spoke with Chris Brogan and offered advice for how to deal with a life threatening illness and ultimately, how to die.


I attended his memorial service on Sunday, March 8 at the New England Buddhist Center at 303 Boylston Street in Brookline, MA. There are many online tributes such as at The Agitator, Bloomerang and Forbes Magazine . And of course on Facebook, where he shared so much about his difficult journey, there are many loving thoughts on his memorial page.

In addition to his years of work in nonprofit communications, marketing and fundraising, John’s book on donor retention, Donor Care: How to Keep Donors Coming Back after the First Gift is now available. Please consider purchasing a copy.

I never worked with John Haydon, but we knew each other from multiple NTen conferences. Rarely have I met someone so inspiring, both in the way he lived and in the way he dealt with the prospects of living such a short life. While he may have ‘beat’ cancer as he hoped, he showed us a way to live with dignity and grace in the face of illness, and ultimately how to die. That is a wonderful gift that I and his many friends in the nonprofit community will always cherish.

From the back of the program of his memorial service:

From the standpoint of eternity, there is hardly any difference between a “long” and a “short” life. Therefore, it’s not whether one’s life is long or short, but how one lives that is important. It is what we accomplish, the degree to which we develop our state of life, the number of people we help become happy – that is what matters.

Daisaku Ikeda

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