A final farewell from an Islander who has inspired thousands

Simon Boas (38021849)

THE Bailiff has paid tribute to the honesty, humour and openness of Simon Boas, whose reflections on the beauty and wonder of life since his terminal cancer diagnosis have inspired hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

Sir Timothy Le Cocq said that he hoped Simon’s words would one day help us all to embrace and love our fate.

Simon has shared his thoughts and feelings in three articles featured in the JEP. The first, headlined Cancer Penguins and published in the edition of 9 September, discussed his diagnosis, while the second, headlined ‘I’m sorry to have to announce that my cancer situation has developed not necessarily to my advantage’ revealed his terminal prognosis. That second piece has been read by more than half a million people on the JEP’s website alone, and has been reproduced by The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator magazine and the Mail on Sunday. Simon was also invited to read it out on Radio 4.

In the weeks since its publication, he has received letters from thousands, many of which he has responded to, thanking him for his honesty and saying how much his words have been a source of comfort and inspiration. He has been asked if they can be used in church newsletters, at funerals and in many other contexts.

Today Saturday 11 May, the JEP publishes what he describes as his final missive as the Weekend Essay.

Speaking on behalf of the community, the Bailiff praised Simon’s contribution both to the Island community and in helping others come to terms with their own fate.

“Amor fati is the phrase that perhaps expresses the core of Stoic philosophy best of all. It means to ‘love your fate’ and encapsulates the stoic ideal of identifying those things in your life over which you have no influence or control and learning to accept them fully for all they bring, for good or ill,” Sir Timothy said. “As is clear from Simon’s recent writings, he has mastered that stoic virtue in the most challenging of circumstances.

“The Simon we in Jersey know isn’t the internationally known and respected one, he’s the Islander Simon. He’s the man who volunteers his time as a Constable’s Officer for his home parish of Trinity, he’s the volunteer chair of Jersey Heritage and, of course, he’s the chief executive and face of Jersey Overseas Aid. Those roles, however, illustrate for me his essential approach to life – an approach of service to his community and to wider humanity. And those of us who have met him will also know that he approaches his world with cheerfulness, a positive cast of mind, and the betterment of those in need around the world through his professional role, with a real commitment.

“Whilst not born in this place, he has made Jersey his home and he is a Jerseyman of whom we can be proud.”

He added: “I cannot imagine how it must feel to have been delivered, as Simon has, such an absolute unforgiving prognosis. But even now he has turned that into good and shared his experiences and insights into life and death in an honest, often humorous, and open manner which has inspired and touched people all over the world in ways he did not imagine.

“His celebration of apparently little things such as a smile or even eye contact reveals his understanding that it is as much these things, as well as the seeming big endeavours in our lives, that dignify our humanity and have a lasting, unknowable, impact.

“When Simon talks, as he does, about imagining what a bad day the person who has annoyed us must have had, and changing our attitude and reaction as a result, he is practising both stoicism and kindness and, at the end, that is a paradigm-shifting practice for most of us. I am only sorry that I may never read the book that he had hoped to write.

“So, when we hear from Simon, unflinchingly and with hope, that he will soon take the journey that each of us one day will take, we know that we will miss him but celebrate too that he has lived as we still live and perhaps, if we are extraordinarily lucky, remember his words and learn as he has done to embrace and to love our fate.”

Simon’s Weekend Essay is on pages 12 and 13 of this weekend’s JEP.

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