She wasn't among those whose response to tragedy or loss was limited to offering the conventional expressions of sympathy before moving on with their own lives. In 1988, an old friend phoned us to say that his grown daughter, a young woman we'd known since she was a child, had been raped by an intruder. This was a dozen years after Alice had been operated on for lung cancer, and among the things that she wrote to our friend's daughter was that having lung cancer and being raped were comparable only in that both were what she called "realizations of our worst nightmares." She said that there was some relief at surviving what you might have thought was not survivable. "No one would ever choose to have cancer or to be raped," she wrote. "But you don't get to choose, and it is possible at least to understand what Ernest Becker meant when he said something like 'To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything.' or to begin to understand the line in 'King Lear'--'Ripeness is all.' You might have chosen to become ripe less dramatically or dangerously, but you can still savor ripeness."from About Alice, a new book by writer Calvin Trillin about his remarkable wife ("Educator, Author and Muse" was the The New York Times obit headline) who died in 2001. i first read it when it ran as an article in New Yorker several months ago. i was so touched, i tore it out and saved it. i found the book the other day on the "free table" at work and promptly snatched it up.
so lovely, and strangely not depressing considering the subject matter. easily read on a lazy winter's morning at the bagel shop, sunlight streaming in, coffee cup steaming...someone on your christmas list would love it. i'd pinky swear on it.
Betting Your Life, a New Yorker article by Alice Stewart Trillin on "doctors, illness, and family. It was published eight months before her death from heart failure."