It’s no longer news that the world of journalism lost one of the great ones last week when author Jeff Zaslow died in a tragic car accident. But the shock of his death continues to reverberate through our community. Of course friends and family are reeling; how will that ever stop? But those of us in the outer circles of the pond, those of us touched by his kindness and enthusiasm, not to mention his wonderful writing, mourn his loss, too.
Whenever I saw Jeff at one of his book talks, he always took time to talk shop for a few minutes. I am nowhere near his league, but he considered me a colleague nevertheless. He told me when his daughter shared my children’s book with the nursery school class she volunteered in at Temple Israel.I looked forward to using this space to share news of his latest book. He always took the time to thank me.
Jeff grew into an engaging and animated public speaker over the years and I looked forward to every one of his talks during the yearly Jewish Book Fair. It was always a pleasure to hear him, not only because he was wonderful to listen to but there was just something about the way he shared the writing of his books that made you proud and happy for his success. Plain and simple, Jeff was a mentsch.
Columnist for the Wall Street Journal, surprise yet superlative replacement for Ann Landers at the Chicago Sun Times, Zaslow took his talents in a new direction with the 2008 publication of The Last Lecture, written with Randy Pausch. Imagine the millions reached with that small jewel of a book and realize that he published four more since then. The irony escapes no one that this father of three daughters, a man always on a quest to better understand the females in his life, chose a bridal salon as the setting for his last book: The Magic Room: A story about the love we wish for our daughters. How bitter that he will never see his girls in lace and satin, never be the one to walk them to the chuppah.
Perhaps Jeff and Randy Pausch are continuing the conversation. Maybe he’s interviewing some particularly intriguing angels or other interesting characters about their life stories. But we’ll never get to read those words. Heaven’s bookshelves may well be richer, but there will forever be gaps on ours.