Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived

Brief Summary of the Book

Half biography-autobiography, successful husband, father, friend, and businessman, Peter Barton, implores the help of writer, Laurence Shames, in documenting the last months of his life after he is diagnosed with a terminal stomach cancer. Coauthored by the two young men, Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived is an intimate illustration of a man in understanding of his capstone life lessons. Humbly, Peter, makes no grandiose attempts at life's big questions. His story is personal.

How I Picked This Book

I am an avid subscriber of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast. On episode 79, Tim hosted Chris Sacca, Silicon Valley venture capitalist. One topic of conversation between Chris and Tim was that of empathy and the increased need for it in today’s competitively productive world. At minute 44:48 of the interview, Chris elaborated that "Empathy is about 'Can I see the world through that person’s lens? Can I figure out what matters to them? What are they afraid of? What’s bothering them? What do they think is limiting them right now? What’s their hope?’"

Diligently, Tim inquired, "If you were giving an assignment to folks for books or experiences - just kind of a short list for people who want to develop that type of empathy, what would you put on the list?"

Chris replied, "...Not Fade Away."

He elaborated on the book’s stark contrast between life and death. It clearly provided him with a sincere understanding of empathy, and this galvanized my decision to purchase a copy from Powell's Books later that week.

What I Learned In This Book

  • Faith has secular applications — Overly considered to be an exclusive practice of religion and spirituality, Peter demonstrates how faith is fundamental to the human experience. Peter made his career as a Grade-A negotiator, but — in the face of death — he has no one to settle terms with. Laurence elaborates on Peter’s hopes and wishes for the future which he will soon no longer be a part of — most notably, life for his family.
  • How to gracefully cope with an illness — As he faces his life’s terminal chapter, Peter feels cynicism tempt his world view when he hears others complain about mundane difficulties in their lives. By the end of the book Peter finds resolve, basking in the simple pleasures of hearing his children play throughout the house, while he lays in another room confined to a body which no longer serves him.
  • Why it’s worth committing one’s self to to one’s life — throughout the book Peter earnestly reflects on many of his life’s most meaningful experiences. Regardless of how simple, grandiose, constructive or destructive they were — or seemed to be — Peter cherishes each for how they uniquely contributed to his journey.

Would I Recommend To A Friend?

Absolutely. To any friend at any stage of life. Not Fade Away is whole-heartedly satisfying, saturated with honesty, and brutally sobering. Peter is a satellite on the event horizon, relaying his view of a landscape we are all bound to eventually cross, to those of us who are still far away.

Closing Thoughts

The chapter that took me the longest to read was the last one. It's no surprise that Peter passes on, but as long as I was reading, he was still alive. So I procrastinated, not wanting to say goodbye.