Jeff was my friend, although we had never met face-to-face. I first got to “know” him through The Last Lecture, his beautiful tribute to life, written with Randy Pausch. I got to know him better through The Girls from Ames and Highest Duty. I read everything Jeff wrote because I loved his writing, but especially because my wife Sara and Jeff were high school friends. It is a great source of family pride, and teasing, that Sara was Jeff’s high school newspaper editor; she graduated a year ahead of him at Marple Newtown High School. Sara’s family and Jeff’s family maintained loose ties over the years, so when I finished the manuscript for No Regrets Parenting, I contacted Jeff and asked if he’d be willing to read it and give me his opinion.
Jeff was one of the best, and one of the best selling non-fiction writers in the country. His writing inspired me to write, and I’m sure inspired many others. His subsequent books, profiling Gabby Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, and his current bestseller, The Magic Room continue his legacy as a sensitive listener and masterful storyteller. The Magic Room has special meaning for all of us with daughters.
Of course, when I wrote No Regrets, I worried about whether Sara, my kids, and the rest of the family would like it, and of course they all said they did. What else could they say? But, when Jeff said he liked my manuscript, I knew I had done okay. I wish we had met. I have wonderful e-mail chains between the two of us. He encouraged me and supported me. In a recent e-mail exchange, I asked him to come to Denver where we would hold a “Jeff Zaslow party” and invite everyone we know to meet him and get their books signed. He and Sara could look back at the Marple Newtown yearbook and critique each other’s writing, just like in high school. They could laugh at how young everyone looked, and how weird the hairstyles were back then.
When my friend and agent, Lisa Leshne, called me last night to tell me about Jeff’s tragic death in a car accident (so I wouldn’t have to hear it first on the news), I cried, and I said a prayer for him and his family. And then I called Sara, who is visiting out-of-town family, so she wouldn’t have to hear it first on the news. And she cried, and said a prayer, too.
To Jeff’s wife, his daughters, his parents, his sister, and his brothers, Sara and I send our deepest heartfelt condolences. May his memory be a blessing for all of you.