Diagnosed with malignant melanoma after years of being a sun bunny in Hawai`i, Madeline accepts that this is the time for dying. Her only regret is that she has missed out on lasting love, and she is determined to be held in the embrace of a man’s arms as she draws her final breath. The problem, as usual, is she can’t figure out which man. With a history of being a female philanderer Madeline always picks guys with fatal flaws, absolving herself of the necessity to choose. With Beau the obstacle is his drinking, with Howard his marriage, with Max his age.
With time growing short Madeline springs into action. Once again, however, she evades the decision making process by leaving it up to the men. She writes a letter, changing only the name, telling each he is the most important person in the world to her and the one she would most like to be with as she goes toward that white light. She throws in a few incentives to sweeten the deal and sends the letter return receipt requested.
As Madeline awaits the answers the story of each relationship is told, depicting three different stages in her life. Though highly unconventional her life decisions may be they bring fulfillment and satisfaction to her and those around her. The sentiment which she sums up with sanguine simplicity at the surprising denouement is ‘The difference between living and dying is love.’