"For us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."
Albert Einstein said that, but Peter Barton lived it. And exactly a year ago, the legendary entrepreneur, sports enthusiast, rock-and-roll fan, husband and father of three escaped the boundaries of time altogether, dying of cancer at age 51.
He left behind many concrete reminders of his relatively short time in the present, including a wealth of cash amassed during his six-year tenure as head of Liberty Media; a wealth of friends -- including 1,500 who showed up for his memorial celebration; and a book: Not Fade Away, a Short Life Well-Lived, which he wrote with Laurence Shames. It is being released by Rodale this month.
Barton, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer on Pearl Harbor Day in 1998, shortly after he'd left Liberty, at first thought he'd beaten it -- but by early January 2002 the disease was back with a vengeance. Knowing that he wanted to write a book, a mutual friend hooked him up with Shames, a renowned mystery writer.
But there were mysteries here that even Shames couldn't solve. How a life so extraordinary could end so quickly. And how Barton could approach his death with the same passion he'd given his life. "Until I started spending time with Peter Barton," Shames writes in one of his chapters that alternate with Barton's, "I'd never heard a dying man play rock 'n' roll."
The sounds of music, the even more profound sounds of silence, fill the pages of Not Fade Away.
"There's just one final thing I want to say," Barton writes in his last chapter. "Probably it's how everybody wants to be remembered. But that's okay. I've said from the start that I make no claim of being special; I'm just one more person dying, revisiting his life. I think my father would have said the same thing, in the same words, if he'd had the time.
"It's simply this: I really tried. I did my best."
Which was more than good enough.