What Alex Trebek Was Doing In His Final Days

Alex Trebek has been a part of our lives for just about as long as we can remember... in fact, most millennials (and all post-millennials) have known him as the Jeopardy! host for their entire lives, since CNN says he's had that gig since 1984. Or did have, or... actually, it's a bit tricky to know what tense to use here, since although Mr. Trebek is gone, a New York Times culture reporter tweets that Jeopardy's producers have stated their intent to continue airing the last episodes Trebek filmed up through December.

Trebek, possibly America's favorite Canadian (although USA Today says he held U.S. citizenship for the past 22 years) will be sorely missed, but not just for his genial game show host persona, nor even for his ongoing support of charities via his Trebek Family Foundation (via Big Database). Where he made his last, but perhaps his greatest impact, was with the courageous way he faced up to his cancer diagnosis and even de-mystified his terminal disease by keeping all of us in the loop.

Trebek kept working on Jeopardy right up till the end

Trebek received the diagnosis in March of 2019, according to Decider, and somehow managed to continue working despite undergoing incredibly painful chemotherapy. While it seemed he was "on the mend" by last summer and released a short video (via YouTube) about how he was looking forward to season 36 and expected it was "going to be a good year," none of us really got the year we expected and Trebek's remission proved to be a short one.

Trebek did make it through the season, however, continuing his treatment throughout the quarantine period, and releasing a July video (via Eyewitness News/ABC 7) saying "my numbers are good; I'm feeling great" as well as telling Good Morning America that he'd be undergoing an experimental new treatment as his final last stand in the battle he'd waged for over a year against his pancreatic cancer. As his final countdown clock wound down, Trebek himself kept on ticking, filming Jeopardy episodes up through October 29th.

Trebek's recently-released memoir reveals how he'd like to be remembered

In July, Trebek published a book called The Answer Is . . .: Reflections on My Life. This autobiography was written after his cancer diagnosis so he's pretty candid that he probably doesn't have much longer to live. (As he died at the age of 80, he was already well aware that he had more time behind than ahead of him.) One question he tackles is that of how he'd like people to think of him after he's gone, saying: "I'd like to be remembered first of all as a good and loving husband and father, and also as a decent man who did his best to help people perform at their best."

There's no question he achieved these goals. His wife, Jean, told Guideposts, "Alex has been everything to me," and his kids all cite him as an important influence in their lives as well as an amazing dad. Trebek also shared a close relationship with all-time Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings, and Jennings as well as other Jeopardy champs have been posting heartfelt tributes on social media as they grieve over his passing. Perhaps the one Jeopardy! champ upon whom Trebek had the most influence, long before they even met, was Burt Thakur. Thakur, who moved to the U.S. from India at age 8, credited the game show with helping him learn English as a child (via Esquire). We'll take "role models" for $400, Alex.

Trebek's final days were spent at home

In Trebek's memoir, he did vent a tiny bit about the injustice of having to end his time on earth in lockdown due to the coronavirus: "Here I am wanting to enjoy what might be the last of my days, and, what, I'm supposed to just stay at home and sit in a chair and state into space?" He then checked himself and admitted, "Actually, that doesn't sound too bad... I'll be perfectly content if that's how my story ends: sitting on the swing with the woman I love, my soul mate, and our two wonderful children nearby."

And that is pretty much how things played out. Yesterday morning the show tweeted: "Jeopardy! is saddened to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends. Thank you, Alex." While we don't like that final answer, still, we're grateful for all the time we had with Mr. Trebek. But that last Jeopardy episode of his set to air on December 25th, is one holiday present that will need to come wrapped in a few boxes of tissues.