Seeing the Grim Reaper coming down the hall must do interesting things for the mind. For the 21 people on this list provided by The AV Club, they decided to become productive, creating music until the dying of the light.
Start with Warren Zevon (d. September 6, 2007 of lung cancer, aged 66). Listen to the lyrics carefully. Once you recover and wipe away the tears, go forward from there.