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April 9, 2005

What Endings Can Teach Us

Posted by admin

There are weeks when very public moments of sadness occur at the same time as personal ones. While the world was watching the worldwide coverage of the funeral of Pope John Paul II, a number of us in New York were hearing of the untimely death of a former colleague, Elizabeth Crow, who we had worked with at Mademoiselle magazine when she was Editor-in-Chief.

I spent 17 years at the magazine and some of my most treasured friendships were forged with my work colleagues there. Many people in publishing all over New York at one time worked at Mademoiselle --- and many of us can still grab our address books and make a quick chain of contacting each other --- thus IMs, emails and phone calls flew this week as we learned of Elizabeth's death. Julie Lewit-Nirenberg, who was publisher at Mademoiselle when I was there, and who has continued to be a good friend to me, had a fabulous friendship with Elizabeth. Her phone call reminded me of how special Elizabeth was.

Memories abounded of Elizabeth leadership, her passion and her complete love of her readers and what they thought. She had a respect for her readers that was as resolved as her respect for her colleagues. She also was just a really nice person who saw a lot of good in people in a business where snarky is innate.

When I left the magazine few people were as supportive and encouraging as Elizabeth. So many folks felt that leaving Conde Nast was akin to professional suicide. I remember sitting in Elizabeth's office where she just heaped good thoughts on me. The right words at the right time.

Over the last few years we had lunch on a few occasions. I always would meet her with a stack of books and I loved watching how she would open each one and peruse it with complete enthusiasm. A few times when she was between career moves I tried to coerce her to write for us. Her passion for the written word was something I would have loved to share with our readers. She often would agree to do 2-3 titles, but we laughed that once she agreed the inevitable phone call for yet another "great job" would come along and there went that idea.

We had not seen each other in about a year, which is something I regret. Our schedules did not mesh, we made some lunch dates, broke them all as things came up and then they never happened.

This week Kathy Weissman, who worked with me at Mlle and now reviews for us (you can see her review of Alice Hoffman's THE ICE QUEEN this week),and I emailed about Elizabeth. We then set up the sushi lunch date we have been promising ourselves for a while now. We both were thinking the same thing. Seize the moment and run with it!

It made me wonder about all the people in the Vatican who knew John Paul II personally and were saying farewell to a friend, as well as the Pope this week. Their personal grief was intertwined with the public one. The quiet stories that are not heard the same way as the big well-known ones, but they too tell the story of the man.

The Pope's death...Schiavo's death...Elizabeth's death. Moments like these in the past two weeks inspire me to just do the things I want to do. No postponing the moment. Read those books on my shelf. Make the phone calls I keep putting off. You get the picture. Do one thing today that you vowed to make happen.