Safe Passage: Part 1

Safe Passage: Part 1 June 7, 2024

I wrote the book, Safe Passage: Thinking Clearly about Life & Death, back in 2006. It was originally published in hardback and we have just now released a paperback version. This book is still very applicable today. Over the next three weeks I will post excerpts from the book, with the first coming from the introduction. You can find Safe Passage on Amazon and our website.


A number of years ago, a friend expressed a growing concern for the well-being of his father. His dad, a wealthy, self-made man, was by his own admission, a hard-driving personality. For his entire life, he had focused all his time and energy on business and very little else. My friend was deeply disturbed that his father seemed not to have developed any religious or spiritual life whatsoever.

The day soon came, however, when my friend mustered up the courage to confront his intimidating father. The only response he got was, “I have no need for God.”

The “wisdom” this father ultimately revealed to his son was that he was fiercely proud of the fact that he depended on no one. This father, in effect, was telling his son, “I have my own strategy for contending with life, and I have no need or interest in any help from anyone, let alone God.” In this man’s case, clearly, his life’s strategy was to throw money and influence at life’s problems, ultimately succeeding by the sheer force of his will.

Over the years, I have thought about that father and his conversation with his son, my friend. I have wondered if this father ever altered his perspective on life. I find the question particularly resonant because this accomplished businessman recently died. Did his strategy for a successful life take into account the fragile nature of human existence?

As the years have gone by, it strikes me now, more than ever, how ill-prepared we all seem to be when it comes to facing our mortality—whether it’s in youth, or midlife, or in the waning years. We spend so much of our working life making provisions for retirement while giving so little thought and preparation for what lies beyond.

Why does a middle-aged man choose to write a book on human mortality?

For one reason, so many of the men I teach and counsel are men who are approaching retirement—or who are in retirement. Life is slowing down for them, and, for the first time, they are being forced to think soberly about what lies ahead. Very simply, this is a book that needed to be written.

However, the need became even more apparent when my father was going to visit one of his friends, a man with a terminal illness. He did not have much time left to live. My father cared for this man, and I was not surprised when he asked me if I knew of an appropriate book, he might be able to share. My father was looking for a resource that might bring added comfort and encouragement to a dear friend in his final months—or weeks—of life.

I was surprised to learn that there are very few books dealing openly and positively with the subject of one’s own death. I assume many writers of non-fiction probably avoid writing directly on the transitory nature of life because, quite frankly, they are afraid that people might not buy it. Death is too scary, too morbid, too close. Perhaps there are far too many prospective readers who believe that if they don’t think about death, or talk about death, or read about death, maybe it will never come their way?

I have attempted to write some thoughtful and uplifting words about the transience of life. The purpose of these personal reflections is to serve as a resource to you, the reader, to encourage you to think clearly about life and death. I will examine the broad, categorical human responses to death in hopes that together we might gain a better understanding of how we individually face our mortality.

In any event, I do recognize and fully appreciate that it requires a great deal of courage not to sidestep the harsh, difficult truths of life and death. But at the same time, we should be encouraged by the words of Morrie Schwartz in the wonderful little book, Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom.

Morrie, with very little time left on earth, challenges his former pupil—

Learn how to die, and you learn how to live.

Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.

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