'Sam de Brito reminded me how to live my life.'


A few days ago, I emailed the editors at the Mamamia Women’s Network and asked them if I could write a post about Sydney journalist and author Sam de Brito.

Because then – six days after his death– Sam de Brito grabbed me by the shoulders and reminded me how to live my life.

Let me back track a little.

Earlier this year I heard about a non-fiction book by New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks called, “The Road To Character”. The book’s primary talking point is Brooks’ examination of what he calls ‘resume virtues’ versus ‘eulogy virtues’ on the road to developing a strong character.

Sam de Brito passed away last week.

He writes, “The resume virtues are the ones you list on your resume, the skills that you bring to the job market and that contribute to external success. The eulogy virtues are deeper. They’re the virtues that get talked about at your funeral, the ones that exist at the core of your being – whether you are kind, brave, honest or faithful; what kind of relationships you formed.”

Kind. Brave. Honest. Faithful.

In other words were you a decent human being during your time on this earth? Will you leave the world a better place because you were here?

I read those words, thought a lot about Brooks’ point and then – if I’m painfully honest — promptly forgot about them in the swirl of my life with three little kids. That was until yesterday when I stumbled across an article where Sam de Brito’s family and friends shared their stories on how their ‘Sambo’ lived his life.


I clicked.

Sam, pictured here with Sarah Macdonald, Mia Freedman and Caroline Overington, was a friend of the Mamamia Women’s Network.

They talked about a man who wore his heart on his sleeve. A man who was so passionate about his daughter that he embraced parenthood like “he invented fatherhood”. They talked of a 6’1″ man who was unafraid to give his male buddies big hugs and who took his mates’ phone calls at 3am when they were blue. A man who routinely told his colleagues and friends and family how much he cherished them. I mean WHO DOES THAT?

They talked about a 46-year-old-man who was prepared to be vulnerable.

De Brito was a gifted writer – no question. And yet the talk this week after the news of his death hasn’t been about his journalistic legacy as formidable as that nor his success as a novelist. Every article I’ve read this past week has been about how Sam de Brito was the kind of bloke who did the right thing. Who cared. Who listened. Who championed the success of his friends and mentored the careers of others. Who stuck his neck out to defend his tribe. It was about the all-encompassing love and devotion he had for his daughter, Anoushka. It was about how he used his profile and platform to shine a spotlight on causes close to his heart like animal welfare.

Sam with his daughter, Anouskha.

And honestly, it stopped me in my tracks.

It’s not as if I haven’t read tributes before. Well-known and well-loved people pass away every day. But there was something that grabbed me by the shoulders yesterday about Sam de Brito and the way he was continually described by those who knew him.


Kind. Brave. Honest. Faithful. He lived those eulogy virtues.

And I cannot think of a better legacy to leave. Because at the end of our lives – whenever that day comes — isn’t this how we all want to be remembered? Sam de Brito – despite his demons and screw-ups — was a force for good.

And today as clichéd and possibly ridiculous as this sounds – that larrikin Sydney journo reminded me to live better. To try harder to be a decent human being.

Sam was a popular columnist and author.

You know writers are lucky – columnists even more so – that at the end of our lives we leave a kind of paper trail of our thoughts and opinions and ideals. There is a path of breadcrumbs for our loved ones to follow evermore where they can hear our voice articulating our thoughts on everything from Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership to Nina Proudman’s wardrobe.

But today Sam de Brito reminded me that what is even greater is the paper trail or legacy we leave behind when we walk this earth as a good person. The lives we touch simply by being a loving son or daughter, a devoted parent, a loyal friend, a dedicated and caring employee, a kind neighbour. Those eulogy virtues shouldn’t be undervalued.

Kind. Brave. Honest. Faithful.

When you are a positive force in the world, your everyday, ordinary acts of kindness create ripples that are far-reaching. So far reaching that perfect strangers feel changed just because you were here.

If you knew Sam or were somehow helped or affected by his writing and you’d like to write a letter to his daughter, please email with “Sam de Brito” in the subject line and we will be sure to pass it on to his family.