In the year 2000, I had a meeting with a woman named Jami
Goldman who was looking for a writer to tell her story. Back in 1987, when she was 19, she and a girlfriend were returning from a ski trip when an unexpected  blizzard struck. They became hopelessly lost in the freezing cold, the car battery died, the snow was at thigh level and they were stuck in their mini-van for eleven days. No water. They had to melt snow. One cinnamon roll. One frozen six-pack of Coca Cola. No cell phones. No heat. No blankets. They were nearly dead when a father and his son on sno-cats found them and called 911. Jami lost both of her legs below the knee to frostbite and went on to become a champion runner, a world record holder and a Paralympic gold medal winner on prosthetics called “Cheetah legs.”

I was moved by her courage and her resilience, but what really made want to write her story were the ten days that she and her friend were stranded in the middle of a blizzard, freezing cold, with no idea where they were or if they would ever be rescued. I wanted to know how it felt to face the likelihood of death together day after day, and I took the job. Jami was a joy to work with. I interviewed her parents, her friends, her lawyer. Everyone cried. She had touched them all with her warrior-like attitude and our inspirational book, “Up And Running: The Jami Goldman Story” came out of the collaboration. We both loved it. (Order it. It’s a great read.)

Jami and I became fast friends. We still are, even though she just died from cancer three days ago at the age of 54. I was aware of her
battle with the illness over the last several years but when I heard that she was gone, it stunned me. I had watched her walk down the aisle with her father on prosthetics. I had run beside her on a track as she left me in the dust. I followed her journey as she ran marathons, gave motivational speeches and I was her guest on Career Day for her fourth grade class. Jami’s greatest desire was to have a family and to be a school teacher and she accomplished
both of those. And now she is on her way back home. How vulnerable we all are.

I guess I didn’t think Jami would ever die. She was so alive, so vibrant and always ready to laugh at herself. She once told me, “When you get home, you take off your shoes. I take off my legs.” Jami could have been the inspiration for Nike’s campaign, JUST DO IT! I guess I forgot she was a human being like all the rest of us who live and die when it’s our time. By the way, I take issue when people describe death as “losing the battle” or when they say, “They succumbed to an illness” as if dying constituted a failure. Jami was a super-hero and a warrior every single day. She fought, she fell and she got up, but she never lost. She always won. Even when she died.

Jami’s greatest gift to me was allowing me to write her story. I feel proud that she trusted me enough to tell her truth in the way that she wanted. And that was also my greatest gift to her. My editing, collaborating and ghostwriting work happens behind the scenes so I
don’t get the credit but my work with Jami reminds me that my contribution is powerful and there are a number of important books that would not have come to fruition if I hadn’t written them or doctored them into shape. Jami’s book is part of her legacy, it will live on, and her children’s children will know who she was, what she accomplished and marvel at her indomitable spirit. I can’t help but wonder why one person has to go through so many serious challenges in this life, one after the other. There’s no answer to that. I just know how important it is to be grateful for our friends and recognize what they mean to us while we are still here.

I wish Jami a smooth ride on her journey back home. She was so
close to her grandfather, Poppy, who died some years ago so I know she’s in good company. I don’t know if dying is a tragedy. The loss hurts like hell for her loved ones, but letting go just might be a reward after an extended battle of pain and suffering. No one knows, so I give thanks every night before I fall asleep and every morning when I open my eyes and I’m still here.