“Life, with Cancer” Columnist Lauren Terrazzano, 1968-2007

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?

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  1. I also knew Lauren from grad school, but hadn’t really talked to her since then. She is one of three people in my life right now to be affected by cancer at a very young age. It’s causing me to pause a bit.

  2. My mom had cancer, died a couple weeks ago, though not exactly from the cancer, more from a hundred complications, and the phenomena.

    At best my mom’s passing inspires me to a kind of compassionate charity.. Or maybe it’s just that at times like this you’re perspective on what is really important seems more clear then at any other point.. What is important is love. May our love find its expression.

    Somewhere in the Bible, on the subject of sacrifice, we are told that God loves a joyful giver. The message seems to be that what is important is not some sense of what is expected of us, of some sense of duty or social obligation… After all, sooner or latter we all pass from the life.. Life is not something to be clung to.. We are, after all, to live a little dangerously.. And what do these worldly values mean in the big picture, when want contemplates the temporality of all the things we normally take so seriously..

    I guess what I’m trying to say is.. all that really matters is what’s in your heart, and don’t let your self be burdened by lesser things. We are all weak and feeble.. this is our condition. Best to have compassion for all..

    lol, accept for the evil bastards at Comcast who refuse to give me my C-Span 2, but that’s another story…

  3. Matt,

    I’m sorry I didn’t know about your mother when I met you Monday (though thinking back it explains how one of my friends greeted you– I’m thick what can I say).

    What you said– don;t be burdened– is what I took from this article by my friend Lauren with whom i had lost touch.

    And as for Comcast, they may know what’s good for you. They have decreed that you do not need to spend your time watching C-SPAN 2.

  4. April Steele

    What you wrote here surely resonnates with me. I am another who, sadly, let my friendship with Lauren lapse…never knowing until it was too late that she was gone from us. We attended journalism school together at BU and she lived next door to me as a sophomore. We became fast friends. We were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. We were close. But then life gets in the way, we find the roads take us awa from one another. We lose touch. But she was such a phenomenal woman and writer. I always admired her. And though we were out of touch those years she struggled with Cancer… she was often in my thoughts. I so wish I had picked up the phone or sent her a casual email. Her loss is a great loss to me. I always figured we’d reconnect at some point and talk about the our times together “back in the day.” I am heartbroken that this will never happen. So I take the lesson learned in hand and make sure I reconnect with those who mean much to me yet no longer play a starring roll in my life.

    I will never forget Lauren and the ways she touched my life. I fell truly blessed to have known her and called her friend… She was one of those rare special people that always will remain in my heart.

  5. […] Doug Haslam » Blog Archive » “Life, with Cancer” ColumnistAll I will do here is say I wish I had known Lauren Terrazzano better than I had. I certainly should have. … Technorati Tags: Newsday, yearbook death, cancer, Lauren+Terrazzano, Tewksbury, High+School… […]

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