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February 08, 2008

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Adam Conner-Sax

This was my tribute to Kiersten at her funeral
____________________________________________________

This is the first time I’ve worn this suit. All Kiersten wanted for her last birthday was for me to get, as she put it, “clothes that fit.” We started slowly, some dress shirts she liked and some pants. And then she gently reminded me that I should have a suit. I think she knew exactly why I needed a suit. She wanted to take care of me, to make sure I had what I needed when she wasn’t here to help.

But that was Kiersten. As she fought her cancer, she was always worried about Kylie and me. And she turned that worry into work. She worked to make sure that Kylie was cared for, that she was happy, and that she was able to play and have fun no matter what Kiersten was going through.

Some time ago, Kiersten found a light fixture in a catalog. The fixture is quintessentially her-- quirky, thoughtful, and perfect. It is a colorful arrangement of little birds, birds that she knew Kylie would love. She tried to buy it and was very sad to find out it was no longer made. About a month ago, during a time when Kiersten could barely get around the house, she discovered that the fixture was available again. She was as happy as I’d seen in a long time and excited to make the house just a little more the place she thought her daughter would love. Kiersten would like to see people appreciate that fixture as they walk into our front hall.

About 2 weeks ago, Kiersten had a very difficult day where she became, for the first time, confused about exactly where she was and what was happening around her. I came home from work and just lay in bed with her. At a certain point, as she slept, I started to cry and Kiersten stirred and said to me “What’s the matter baby? Oh no, We’ll be okay. We’ll be okay.” And she returned to herself again as if taking care of me was enough to come back for.

Kiersten’s long illness, and her heroic qualities as a mother, friend and wife during that time, can obscure from memory the years before she got sick. I've been thinking about those years. We met nearly two decades ago, as kids really. She wasn’t so different then, bitingly funny, smart and beautiful. She was coming across the country from California to school in New York to become a writer. And what a writer she was, uniquely gifted with insight and craft. Those skills led to a varied writing career which included movie reviews in the boston phoenix, a book about the internet, articles in Computer Shopper magazine and most recently her blog. Of all her writing, the blog most revealed her powerful, funny and unique voice. There are a few excerpts from the blog in the programs you each received for this service.

I’ve made her sound so serious and that’s not right. She was great fun. She loved weddings, especially dancing with me and her friends and best of all if there was a band with a great horn section. Kiersten loved music. Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra topped her list although she also had a more modern love for Blondie and Barenaked ladies. She loved to choose music. She prepared a song list for our wedding, very carefully removing many favorites because they were not “wedding appropriate.” She also loved to play her favorite songs to Kylie. We spent many of Kylie’s infant months serenading her with Sondheim’s “It’ll be all right” and for a long time that was Kylie’s favorite song. After Kiersten was diagnosed with breast cancer near the end of Kylie’s first year, “It’ll be all right” took on new and deeper meaning.

Kiersten tried to make me learn to swing dance and she and I had some great, funny, stumbling and exhilarating moments twirling around the dance floor. Our first dance at our wedding was a swing, done to our song, Blondie’s “The Tide is High.” Again, quintessentially Kiersten. Odd and perfect.

Kiersten was always a voracious reader and lover of words. She often trounced me (and all comers) at scrabble. She has left me with a writer’s appreciation of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and a nearly obsessive love of crosswords. She would complete a Sunday Times puzzle as I looked on in amazement and tell me I could do it too, if only I would work a little harder. In the last year, Kiersten, me, her mom Mary Ann, and even Kylie a little, would work on the puzzle together.

Kiersten was a loving and devoted mother, who took incredible joy in her daughter. Kiersten's parenting was a thing to behold. In a thousand ways she was able to show Kylie respect and love. A few years ago, Kiersten chose and framed two pictures that Kylie had painted and hung them on the wall in our living room. Kiersten liked the pictures and felt that they belonged on the walls alongside our favorite works of art. Those pictures hang in the same spot today.

Since Kiersten passed away, I’ve been talking to her a lot. I’ve seen that in movies and it always seemed quirky or contrived. But it’s not. She was the person I’ve always wanted to speak to most about everything and, much as I know she cannot answer, I can still talk to her. So, Kiersten, baby, I miss you, we all miss you. The love for you in this room is tremendous. That love will sustain me and embrace Kylie and, just like you said 2 weeks ago, we’ll be okay.

________________________________________________________________

Adam


Michelle

Adam and Kylie,
My sincerest and deepest condolences go out to you. Adam, your eulogy was absolutely beautiful and has left me in tears.

Kiersten was always there to cheer me up when I was down - always with some witty retort or some funny turn of phrase to lift me out of the doldrums. She was one of the strongest and bravest women I've ever had the opportunity to "meet" (I put in quotes because we never had the opportunity to meet in person; just the internet and the phone).

If you or Kylie need anything, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Love, light and blessings to you both.
Michelle

Tiffany

If I could send you and Kylie a hug I would do so because times like this, well they just call for hugs. My thoughts are with you both during this time. Kiersten's words, indominable and witty spirit touched many people and she shined so brightly and courageously in the face of adversity. I feel blessed to have known her via the internet and can't help but think she would have been just as incredible to know in person. Peace be with you both and your families.

Naomi

I am very, very sorry for your loss.

pam

Adam,

I was so sad to hear about Kiersten -- my heart goes out to you, Kylie, and the rest of your families. I checked this blog often over the years hoping for a good word and even though they were few and far between, it was so refreshing to see Kiersten always being Kiersten, no matter where the chips fell. She fought an incredibly good fight, and I know that she will remain in the hearts and minds of everyone who knew her as a strong and courageous woman.

Your words are beautiful and fitting, and I only wish I'd been able to be there to hear them in person and give you a hug.

Love, Pam

ps - I hope this will give you a laugh ... because of this blog, I will always associate "plushies" with Kiersten.

Caroline

Adam and Kylie:
Many many condolences and much sympathy to you. There are not enough words to express my sorrow for your loss.
The few times I read Kiersten's words, I felt her fighting spirit, her strength and her will.
I know that spirit fills your hearts.
In love and sympathy,
Caroline

LF

I am so sorry. I'll always think of her during my family's own hybrid December celebration, which this year, was newly christened "Christmakah" because of her blog.

carla

We love you so much Adam. -carla & david.

Cassie

Another sybermom wanting to let you know how very sorry I am.

Robin

My thoughts are with you and your family. Kiersten made a difference in this world. She will be remembered fondly by all of us at Sybermoms.

Liz

Kiersten had so much courage and grace. Words are empty. Wishing for comfort for Adam and Kylie.

Regina

I am so sorry for your loss. I'm so happy for you that you had the opportunity to know Kiersten, and that you two (and later three) found each other and made each other so happy during the time you had together.

Blessings and healing to you and yours.

samantha

Peace and love to you and yours.

Jennifer Friedman

My name is Jen. I was a very close friend of Kiersten's, and sometimes appeared in her blog. I spent a great deal of time witnessing her bravery and learning from her. I also spoke at her funeral and have pasted below my eulogy. The cyber community that rallied behind her is truly inspiring and I believe was a source of comfort and support to her. Thank you.

Kiersten was my dear friend. We met early in college when Adam told me he had found someone truly special. And he had.

Kiersten had an amazing and unique combination of qualities, some of them seemingly contradictory. She was extremely sensitive, but scathingly critical. She was careful and witty and sharp and insightful and deep and passionate. She was extremely progressive and a committed feminist, but also a strong individualist. She was a brilliant writer. She was intensely private, yet published her most personal struggles on line. She treasured fine literature and theatre, but was an avid purveyor of popular culture. We had many conversations involving a close analysis of American Idol contestants and their chances to win, and she was first to admit that she often ate dinner in front of the television, she once joked -- “as god intended”.

Kiersten was a loyal, devoted friend. People were intensely important to her and she loved hosting events that brought people together. In the various stages of her life – high school, college, boston, and back to New York, even at Sloan Kettering, she drew a circle of friends around her who became a family. And what was special for many of us is that she drew a circle around all of those groups -- so that in some way everyone who loved kiersten became a part of that extended family.

Kiersten adored Christmas, and typical of her belief in honouring tradition – yet defying convention -- she and Adam created a wonderful “Christ-ma-kah” tradition. This year’s invitation email was entitled “Oy, the weather outside is frightful, I’m telling you.”

Kiersten loved fondue, chocolate, coffee, her dogs, and beautiful jewelry. She once called coffee “god’s sweet life affirming ambrosia.”

Kiersten had a unique style and taste that was utterly consistent with her sensibility. It was something like Ironic-campy-chic. Who else would combine the most beautiful high grade blue granite with farm animal tile for her kitchen or choose a bird cage chandelier for her magnificent home’s dramatic entryway? I’m not sure which Kiersten loved more – target or tiffany’s, but I think probably Target because where else can you shop for velvet living room drapes and drink a slurpy at the same time?

Kiersten could converse knowledgably about almost any topic -- from politics to art to television to fashion to literature -- and she was addicted to news media.

Kiersten’s voice was so strong and so clear that I feel sure I will hear it speaking to me for the rest of my life. She was a person who lived as true to her values as any I have known. She was a fiercely devoted mother, who cared deeply about parenting.

It is impossible to talk about Kiersten without thinking about Adam. Perhaps the best evidence of her sound judgement, perceptiveness, and sheer brilliance was choosing Adam as a partner. From early on in their relationship anyone who saw them together knew they belonged together. Not in an “aw-shucks” way but in a cosmic, fateful way.

I will miss kiersten more than I can possibly express. I know she would take a red marker to this sentence – not to mention this whole speech -- but I cannot help but say she was one of a kind.


c

Adam,
I am an old friend of Kiersten's who knew her over two decades ago when we were in high school. I accidently stubled across this blog just this past summer and have been following with my heart in my throat ever since. I am so sorry for your loss. I have met very few people in my life who rise to the level of Kiersten. Your eulogy sums her up perfectly and helps us all remember how special and spectatuclar she was. Her loss is felt deeply by many, and my only comfort is knowing that she has touched so many lives so deeply in such a short period of time. God bless you and your daughter, and God bless Kiersten's soul.

Krysti

Adam, my thoughts and prayers are with you and Kylie. Your eulogy was a beautiful tribute to a wonderful woman.

Melanie Z

Adam,

Not only is your eulogy inspiring and beautiful, it is a testament to Kiersten's choice in picking you as a life partner. Your devotion to her--and to Kylie--shine through.

In our family, my husband's grandfather was born in 1902 and died in 1983--long before I ever met my husband. For 25 years now, the family has talked so much about his grandfather that I, my kids, and new members of the family feel as if we "know" this man who passed away a quarter of a century ago, so strong was his spirit and his effect on people.

Kiersten sounds like one of those people who will be not just remembered by those who knew her in real life, but transmitted, in full, to the next generation of people who will "know" her through her stories, her love, and her grace.

jena

I had been following Kiersten's blog since the beginning, and just learned of her passing. Through the power of her words she touched people she never knew. How she dealt with her struggle - with honesty, humor, strength, and grit -- is a lesson for us all. Her legacy is tremendous. My thoughts are with Adam and Kylie in their time of healing.

jena

I had been following Kiersten's blog since the beginning, and just learned of her passing. Through the power of her words she touched people she never knew. How she dealt with her struggle - with honesty, humor, strength, and grit -- is a lesson for us all. Her legacy is tremendous. My thoughts are with Adam and Kylie in their time of healing.

Frank

Dear Adam,

I have been a reader of your wife's blog for nearly four years and in that time I twice penned sarcastic -- borderline nasty -- retorts to one of her occasionally sharp political comments. But thankfully, I never hit the send button...and I am so very glad I did not. As a fellow and frequent Shouts & Murmurs rejectee, I was really just lashing out a person whose failed efforts at getting published in The New Yorker I considered slightly worse than mine (in my completely biased opinion). Regardless, the unsent emails I wrote were beneath me; So please accept along with my sincere condolences my sincere apologies for putting that negative energy out into the universe. May God bless you and your daughter.

Sea Bass Sears

Adam,

Although it has been many years, I remember you and Kiersten as a strong and devoted couple. I can only begin to fathom the pain of your loss.

You obviously have a strong support structure around you (as evidenced by above, among other clues), and we will all keep all three of you in our thoughts.

-- Sea Bass

Natalie & Jerry

I referred a friend to Kiersten's blog so she might get a sense of how amazing Kiersten was. Needless to say--she understood. I felt her comments were worth sharing.
"Jeeeesus. I just read Adam's obit and then I couldn't stop myself, I read the last 3 years of Kiersten's blog, starting with the most recent and working back, telling myself I'd stop after this one, but I couldn't. Now I feel as if I knew her, so, from a totally self-involved perspective, it is sooo much worse that she's gone. But, much much more importantly, much much more, she was an absolutely fabulously wonderful person -- it just shines through -- even in this last couple of years of blogs when, as she said, she was writing mostly about the illness. She had the capacity, even when she was weighing about 87 pounds and feeling terrible, to be smart and funny and direct and honest about the cancer, and about how she felt about it -- no fake I'm going to be fine stuff -- she hated being sick, and she didn't mind saying so. And her husband is a mensch, an absolute mensch. Every time she mentions that they were a week in the hospital, and he stayed with her the whole time, I just want to cry. "
It remains unthinkable that Kiersten is gone. But, the memory of an alive Kiersten and the love she and Adam shared will glow in our hearts forever.
Natalie & Jerry

David Shimkin

Adam,
I knew Kiersten Nauman at Columbia and am very sad to learn of her passing.
Kiersten was in my orientation group during our first week at Columbia.
I remember her as a kind and conscientious person. God Bless.

Sung

I stumbled upon this blog while searching for "new yorker shouts murmurs," and all I can say is that I'm very glad I typed those four words into Google. Even though the Internet may be awful at times, it's moments like these that make me very proud of this technology and all those who participate in it.

Thank you, Kiersten and Adam.

Tom

I'm just one of Kiersten's readers. I hadn't checked the blog in a while -- so I'm only now learning the sad news. I didn't know her, but I could tell from her writing that she was funny and kind. Those are the best things to be.

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