Richard Bram, a man with terminal cancer whose desire to live into the year 2000 was the subject of an article in The Washington Post on Dec. 26, died Friday in Lexington, Mass. He was 68.
Bram had been diagnosed with liposarcoma six years ago and had undergone surgery and chemotherapy at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. In October, he decided to forgo further treatment of the tumor, which was invading his intestinal tract and causing slow bleeding.
In the fall, Bram had stated a desire to survive until his son's wedding, which was held just after Thanksgiving.
After reaching that goal, he expressed a desire to survive until the start of 2000. The Post story recounted Bram's wish and described the apparent ability of some gravely ill people to delay death until a significant or symbolic milestone is reached.
Soon after Jan. 1, Bram said: "I've set no more goals. We had a wonderful New Year's. . . . It was a letdown and it was an accomplishment. But I made it. Now, I'm getting weary."
Bram was a commercial real estate developer. His wife, Vicki, said he briefly considered, and then rejected, trying to survive until Jan. 21, the opening day of the final building he built. He received no more blood transfusions, which had been helping keep him alive, after the last week in December.
"He had had enough, and he believed his family and children had had enough," Vicki Bram said yesterday. In the past two weeks, he began having severe pain for the first time in the course of his illness. He was heavily sedated with morphine for most of last week. His wife was with him when he died at home about 1 p.m. Friday.
Bram agreed to speak to The Post because he believed it might help people understand the process of dying to some extent, and because he wanted to bring attention to his disease, which is a rare cancer of fat cells. The effects of the story, however, were not entirely anticipated.
"It made him really sad--to see yourself dying," his wife said soon after the article appeared. "He said, 'Well, I guess I'm really dying.' You know, that's his humor."
"He was a little bit distressed by it," said George D. Demetri, a Dana-Farber oncologist who was Bram's physician. "Seeing it in black-and-white was qualitatively different from him saying he was dying and rationally realizing that he was dying."
There were unexpected benefits as well.
The article was reprinted in several other newspapers around the country. One of Bram's old girlfriends, several college fraternity brothers and numerous acquaintances from years past saw it and contacted him.
Many distant relatives of Vicki Bram also called or e-mailed. As it happened, these people became aware about them partly as result of Bram's illness.
Over the past two years, Vicki Bram learned how to use a computer in anticipation of the time when she would be left to handle the financial chores normally done by her husband.
In odd hours, she and daughter Julie, who spent much of 1998 living at home while Bram was in the throes of cancer treatment, began using the computer to trace Vicki Bram's genealogy. Her father's father emigrated, with five siblings, from a Ukrainian village around the turn of the century. The two women found descendants of all of them. Last year, 65 came to a family reunion.
"Now, I have all these relatives," Vicki Bram said several weeks ago. "When you're going through what I'm going through, it's very warming, I tell you."
Richard Bram's funeral will be held at 2:30 p.m. today at Temple Isaiah, and he will be buried in Westview Cemetery. Both are in Lexington.
In addition to his wife, Bram is survived by his daughter, Julie Goldfischer, a psychologist in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and a son, Anthony Bram, a psychologist in Topeka, Kan.
CAPTION: Richard Bram, shown with son Tony, wanted to live until the year 2000.