Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Papa Bill: I don't need to worry about you.

We called my grandfather Papa Bill (as my mom called her grandfather Papa Bill, too.)

He'd been in bad health for years. A few years of false-alarms, but this time he had decided it was his time. He went off the life-support and medications, and asked to spend his last days at home.

My mom told me he'd been worrying about lots of loose ends: the will, the house, and all those things he always meant to say.

He knew that I was doing well: successful business, great relationship, and deeply happy. So I went to see him, as soon as I walked in the door, he said, “Oh I don't need to worry about you.”

My mom had warned me that he couldn't stay awake for more than a few minutes.

We chatted. He wanted to hear about Santa Monica and how they feed the homeless. He was telling me about how he used to go logging in Oregon and some good memories.

But the whole time, I had one big question on my mind. One that was too big and bold to ask.

But when I saw him drifting asleep, I knew it was my last chance. So I did:

What's it like to know you're going to die soon?

His eyes lit up! His face lit up! He said, “It's wonderful! It's the most natural thing of all. Every baby born is going to die. Everything else in my life has been great, so I'm sure this will be, too. It's exciting!”

He started drifting, this time with a smile, so I quietly got up to go.

As I got to the door, he heard me open it, and seeing me still staring at him, he said, “Don't worry about me. I'm happy.”

I said, “Oh I don't need to worry about you.”

He died the next day.