About a year ago I happened to run into a friend when I attended a panel sponsored by Compassion in Dying (now Compassion & Choices). A primary speaker was Barbara Coombs Lee, Chief Petitioner for Oregon's Death with Dignity Act and a woman who has frequently testified before the U.S. Congress on end-of-life issues. I'd met this friend, Susan Stern, in some of the first circles to which I was invited back in the 1970s; we hadn't seen each other in years. When I inquired what brought her to this event, she told me of her father's death on July 5th of that year, just a few months earlier, and how he'd left a video for herself and her sister. She was there as part of her research for the film she was making with this material. The result of Bob Stern's gift to his daughters is The Self-Made Man. So even though I was unable to attend the film's debut screening, I was delighted to know that it had been completed. Not only done, but done so well it's up for an Emmy.
I finally had an opportunity to watch this film last night on our local PBS station, KQED. Susan has built the story the around her father's amazingly pragmatic decision to cut his losses and spare his family and himself the aftermath of cardiac surgery, and more perilously, advanced prostate cancer, by taking his own life. But, just as Susan had told me at our fortuitous meeting, before he did this, and as part of his process he discussed it with his wife Adele and son Mike, and, left a videotape for his daughters, Laura and Susan. Featuring interviews with family, old friends and eventually grandchildren, voiceover ruminations by the filmmaker, and a synopsis of Bob Stern's self-made, and financially bountiful, life, The Self-Made Man offers a personal insights into the timely issue of 'conscious self-deliverance.' Filmmaker Susan Stern , her family, and especially her dad, have given us a beautiful, thought-provoking and compassionate film.
Bob is all the more remarkable for having been a pioneer in the field of solar power in California's Central Valley. Thus, his life had great meaning on many scores, meanings that live beyond his mortality.
As an advocate for choice in matters of living and dying, I cannot recommend this film more highly. Here is a schedule of airings on PBS' Point of View.
Susan is also the producer of Barbie Nation: An Authorized Tour.