What do we do when we know we are going to die? Look to Sam Simon for inspiration.
We all have two things in common. We come into this world a confused ball of infinite possibility and, at some point, we all breathe our last and take our leave. In between those two milestones, it’s rare that any of us can afford the time and mental energy required to do a fierce and honest audit of how we live our lives. There’s so often a gap between the person we are and the person we want to be and so much of our time revolves around reconciling those two people.
We think about our family, our job, our favorite team, that jackass who cut us off in traffic. We think about everything and anything but almost never about the fact that the clock is ticking on us all, day in and day out. It’s an easy reality to ignore because none of us knows precisely when we’re going to die. That fact allows us to the luxury denial and the ability get lost in our own day to day trivialities. But what if you did know? What if you were given the strange, bitter gift of an expiration date?
For the past couple of years, Sam Simon, the wildly talented and wealthy co-creator of The Simpson’s, has been the recipient of exactly that gift. Now, in his last precious stretch of life, he’s giving us all a master class in the art of dying well. He’s not only giving away a fortune estimated to be around $100 million, (most of which focuses on feeding the homeless and preventing animal cruelty), he’s speaking openly and fearlessly about his own demise—describing what is almost certainly his final year as the most ‘amazing’ and ‘happy’ of his life. It’s hard to imagine terminal cancer being described by anyone as ‘an amazing adventure’ but, for Simon, it’s been precisely that.
Simon’s clarity and perspective bring to mind Socrates’ famous assertion that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” It’s a quote meant to remind us that living with intention is an essential part of truly being alive. Perhaps the same can be said of the unexamined death. How we leave this world can be just as important as how we lived in it, and Sam Simon’s curtain call has been an inspiring example of courage, humility and compassion. Not just an example of who we can be in our last moments, but a reminder of what we should aspire to every day that we’re fortunate enough to draw breath.
The role of men is changing in the 21st century. Want to keep up? Get the best stories from The Good Men Project delivered straight to your inbox, here.