There is a scene during the series finale of the West Wing that really moves me. The new president is about to take office and the old administration is packing up. Just prior to meeting with the incoming president, the outgoing president (played by Martin Sheen) strolled through the White House taking a look at the place, appreciating where he had been, the difference he had made, the soaking up the gravitas of the building and thanking the staff. Then in the final moments of his presidency he and the first lady (Stockard Channing) walk into the east room, take a breath and take it all in, one more time.

Are we able to do that with life or is that just a Hollywood ending? Do we take a look around, appreciating the spaces we filled, the air we breathed and the people we touched? Or, do we fade off leaving the impact we made in the world to be felt by those that we left behind. I’d like to think that we do the former, but I am afraid it mostly doesn’t happen the way Hollywood writes the script.

More often than not, death comes suddenly, and we don’t have the time to rewind the movie to reflect or to comment on the ride. It’s just over. Other times death comes to us as a long march, but as this scene from “Fletch” reminds us that even then, when it happens, we neither have the time nor the ability to reflect, because to quote another scene from the same movie, “when it comes, it comes.”

Dr. Dolan: You know, it’s a shame about Ed.

Fletch: Oh, it was. Yeah, it was really a shame. To go so suddenly like that.

Dr.  Dolan: He was dying for years.

Fletch: Sure, but… the end was very… very sudden.

Dr.  Dolan: He was in intensive care for eight weeks.

Fletch: Yeah, but I mean the very end, when he died. That was extremely sudden.

Moreover, most people are not equipped for the long goodbye. They weren’t sentimental in life and that emotional connection doesn’t suddenly appear near life’s end. It is often the case, that people are who they are in each moment that they live. Who they are is even more apparent in these difficult, tough to define moments. Now with a global pandemic (I think that might be redundant. Doesn’t “pandemic” imply “global?!) it is even harder for meaningful, soulful goodbyes.

My father was not a “take a lap around and see where I’ve been” guy. He was always looking forward. He never believed the end was the end. He was calling clients from the ICU and telling friends that “he would be up and around in a few weeks.” Because of Covid, his and the fear of others’ potentially with it, my last few months with him were masked. My last hug with him after telling him that his granddaughters were really special women, that thousands loved him and that when he left (whenever that might be) he would leave behind a meaningful legacy, was masked.

That was his only looking around at the landscape, that moment. He didn’t want to go there. Not only was it not in his nature, but he was tired. Tired of the effort required to do anything that comes natural to all of us, tired of tubes, tired of medication, tired of how tired it was all making my mother and yes, tired of the masks. He was a person that changed the energy of a room when he walked in. You can’t change the energy if you can’t walk and you certainly can’t do it if you can’t see people’s faces.

In 1989, Kareem Abdul Jabbar went on a long goodbye tour. In each city the Lakers visited, he was festooned with gifts, stories and highlight reels. It all culminated with a celebration in Los Angeles with the honoree sitting in a rocking chair befitting a seven-foot legend. It is now 32 years later. Will he get a tour like that for the back half of his life? Will he produce the tour in his head? Will he reflect on the over three decades without basketball or will it just be over with no fanfare?

I am mad that my dad didn’t take a stroll around – whether that was because he didn’t want to, he wasn’t physically capable or because Covid prevented it. I am mad that the guy who always aspired to be one in a million, became one of five hundred thousand… deaths from this still raging fire of a virus. I am mad that there were so many unmasked people in the Indiana truck stop I went to get caffeinated after learning of his passing that when I finally made it to my parents house, I couldn’t even hug my recently widowed mother.

I am not an angry person by nature and so my emotion will ultimately subside. Maybe, though, the lesson here is to breathe it all in while it is happening. That way, when the end comes, we have already taken that stroll and that stroll will last a lifetime.


  • Billy Goldberg


    Billy Goldberg Partners

    Working with me means you have a seasoned sounding board at the end of any phone call or email. You aren’t just a client. Your business—and my ability to support and enhance it - is a reflection of our work. Our relationship is a true partnership. I leverage decades of work with iconic companies, and an agile approach, to remove obstacles standing in the way of growth. With your industry and product or service specific knowledge – and my ability to accelerate growth, we chart the path forward quickly. In addition to working with clients, I am the COO of Body Squad, a growing pacesetter in the performance and recovery space; a former client where my role steadily increased to point where I lead our national growth strategy. As a business owner, the heavy lifting comes from thinking about the day-to-day while contemplating decisions about the future. I’m thinking about all that with you. Together, we create more economy for decision making, for processes and for monetizing all that you do. What has evolved is akin to a heavyweight wing-man to founders and CEOs. Basically, anyone with a shit ton of responsibility, and a sense of optimism, but also with a lack of bandwidth. (The rest you can see on LinkedIn if you're really interested) In my experience, the way a deal starts is usually the way it goes – meaning the people dictate the process, not the other way around.  That’s why I do business with people, not projects. One of the great things I learned as a Hollywood agent is the mechanics of deal making, so that you're negotiating on your client’s behalf for the best possible outcome. The unfortunate part of that culture (back then) is that intentions weren’t always golden, it's highly transactional at a certain point, and there's typically not a sense of “how can everyone feel good about this in the end.” At the very core, that’s my bio. I studied international business in London, graduated with a business degree from The Ohio State University, am angel investor and served as Co-chairman of Melissa’s House. I have written for several publications, performed stand-up at the Improv in Hollywood, and speak at universities about business and leadership. I love going to college football games and spending time with my family.