When someone you know dies, it is natural to make it about you–how well you know the person, what you talked about, what you did with them.
All I will do here is say I wish I had known Lauren Terrazzano better than I had. I certainly should have.
By the time we graduated, I realized that Lauren was one of the “smart” ones in my high school class, Tewksbury (Mass.) Memorial high, 1986. By that I mean she was hip enough to recognize that there was life beyond our boring– sorry, Tewksbury– suburb. And she proved me right too, by going on to the Columbia School of Journalism and landing a gig as a renowned columnist for Newsday in New York City.
Her last series of columns, “Life, With Cancer,” dealt frankly with the eponymous subject. Her last column in particular, “No Time for Last-Minute Commiserators,” takes point-blank aim at my first paragraph. Lauren aired her resentment at people who pop into her life after hearing she is dying, even though she had not heard from them for years. Some of these people said strangely inappropriate things– all with good intentions.
We all do this, when we do this, out of a strong brew of guilt and selfishness. Again, we relate the tragedy to ourselves, and the need to do that sometimes overcomes decorum. Lauren was not afraid to call out that uncomfortable truth.
Lauren wrote in that column: “My father always taught me that you honor people when they are alive and not wait until they’re dead or close to it.” Memorize those words.
It is my fault that I did not keep up with someone who had so much intellectual stimulation to offer. Selfishly, I am glad that I did not become one of the people she called out in her column, but wouldn’t I have rather ad some contact with her before hearing of her death?
I do know this: I have some phone calls and visits to make. Now is the time to nurture your friendships, not when it’s nearly too late.
As for Lauren, I am grateful to have the memories I have of her, for they were good ones, even those that were second-hand through mutual friends. I am also grateful that on the Internet, many things live forever; we do have Lauren’s columns, and her voice on an NPR tribute.
One last note; I picked up my class of ’86 yearbook after receiving the email about Lauren this evening and, like me, she was not in it much, save for her activity at the school paper. I do want to know about the “Favorite Memory” in her yearbook entry. What is the story behind the Wang truck?