"I've never been happier in my life," developer Simon Boas says of facing death

 In September 2023, Simon Boas was diagnosed with throat cancer. Aged just 46, he was told the disease was fatal and would eventually take his life.



The following year he compiled his thoughts on life in a book, A Beginner's Guide to Dying, which is due to hit stores in October. It will be a posthumous release.


Speaking to Emma Barnett on the Today programme in what is likely to be his last interview, Simon shared his thoughts on life and death as he enters hospice.


I have my pain under control and I'm so happy. It may sound strange, but I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life.

I've always thought I'd rather be hit by the proverbial bus, but knowing for months that it was coming really helped me get through the boring "moment of death" and get my thoughts in order and prepare myself. Get really involved in what's going to happen.

That was actually a great bonus.

The book is called The Beginner's Guide to Dying, but what I really want to get across is how to prepare yourself to live life to the fullest.

I've been lucky in some ways that my life and career have taken me to many places where death is a much bigger part of life than it is in Western countries.

I've spent my life as an aid worker, spent a lot of time at the UN, and lived in places where death isn't just in the background, but can happen at a moment's notice.

I headed the UN office in Gaza for three years. I've spent a lot of time in Rwanda and Sierra Leone, and worked in Ukraine. It really helped me to see people on the ground who have lost children, who don't know where their next meal is coming from, where death is a part of life.

I've also been a Samaritan for 4 years now. I think death has been a bigger part of my life than many others because in some cases I am at the same risk of a person ending their life.

It's good for us all to think about it.

I don't mean this in a gloomy way... understanding that it's inevitable, that it's part of life, helps put life in perspective, enjoy life more, and prioritize what's important.

My family is facing the most difficult period of their lives. My wonderful wife, Aurélie, and my parents… are well surrounded, and I hope that my cheerfulness as I say goodbye will probably help them in the years to come…

All our lives are little books – but they are not the full version of another book. You are a chapter, a page, or a footnote in someone else's life, who will continue to write beautiful chapters after you are gone.

And these green shoots can grow around the grief and put it into perspective. I hope people think, "I'm glad I read Simon's story." And just because this is over doesn't mean it's over.

You don't have to have been a politician, or an activist, or a development worker, or anything else in life. We all make a big difference.

I love this quote from George Eliot's Middlemarch:

"The effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistorical acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

All of us make a huge difference in life. I love the idea that most films about time travel revolve around changing one tiny thing in the past, and of course they come back to the present and everything is different.

If you project that forward, you can change huge amounts of things into the future.

All our tombs will be unvisited in a few years - all our actions will mostly be unremembered - but the smile you gave the checkout lady or the kind words you gave to a stranger in the street could still be rippling forward.

We all have that opportunity and it's a huge power. And I want all people to understand how special and worthy they are.

I love melted cheese. Unfortunately I haven't been able to eat any since Christmas. Chemotherapy destroyed my taste buds and radiation destroyed my salivary glands.

Unfortunately melted cheese and all the other things I loved are no longer on the menu.

But my oncologist and hospice team have given me full permission to enjoy as many Muscadets and Naughty Roll-Ups as I like - and I definitely plan to indulge in them and spend time with my family.

I'm not looking forward to my last days somehow - of course, that's the wrong way to look at it. But I'm kind of curious and I'm happy and ready.

Julian from Norwich said: "Everything will be fine, and everything will be fine, and all kinds of things will be fine."

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