One of the great travel writers and a lifelong friend, Suzy Gershman, lost her long battle with brain cancer earlier today. Most of you remember Suzy as the author of the legendary “Born to Shop” book series. Regular readers of my website knew her byline well, with her “postcards” sent to me from all over the world.
I knew her since we were both 5 years old – kindergarten – in Manhattan. And from our earliest days, I always knew Suzy was a force to be reckoned with. She was streetwise almost from birth, and could hit the ground – literally – running, and not only knew everywhere she needed to be, but almost miraculously, seemed to already know everyone she needed to know before she even arrived.
If you ever wanted to know what was happening in Paris, Rome, London, Hong Kong, or points in between, Suzy not only knew, but she was already there or had just returned. We both grew up in New York, but I would bump into Suzy – literally – in hotel lobbies from Capetown to Bangkok, or from Tokyo to Chicago. Our encounters were unexpected at first, but then Suzy began leaving me notes in hotels around the world because she heard I was coming…not just to say hello, but to have bragging rights that she had been there ahead of me.
Not too long ago, while she was in London on a writing assignment, she suddenly became disoriented on the street outside of Harrod’s – a store she knew blindfolded. She said she forgot where she was. The next day she had trouble walking. Back in the U.S. the diagnosis was bleak – the same kind of inoperable brain cancer that took Ted Kennedy. I flew to San Antonio to see her. She was already heavily medicated by the time I got there, and tired easily. But we sat and talked for about an hour. We held hands. We laughed. We told bad stories about the people we didn’t like, and funny stories about the people we loved. Suzy was anything but shy. She always told you where you stood – and she was almost always right.
When I visited her in the hospice in Texas, she told me her most important wish: She wanted to live long enough to see her grandchild be born. The doctors were not optimistic, but few people have Suzy’s resolve, or her energy. She DID live long enough to see her grandchild, and then she was ready to say goodbye.
It’s not often that you can accurately describe someone as living a full life. But Suzy did live a very full life. She was a citizen of the world. She was bigger than life. She experienced more things in a single week than most people dream about and never do their entire lives.
At a time like this, I am reminded about a line from one of my favorite movies, Fried Green Tomatoes. Jessica Tandy tells Mary Stuart Masterson that “someone will stay alive as long as you remember them.” And that will certainly be the case with my friend Suzy Gershman. I will always remember her. She will always be alive.
By Peter Greenberg