She showed up on the first day of class three years ago. In a wheelchair. The other students, all in their 50's and 60's or older, bustled around and made her a place at the table. Beautiful woman. Blond hair, cut like a boy's. Wearing a green turtleneck. Skinny, though.
She hung in for two, maybe three, of our eight-week sessions, chatting, smiling, doing friendly but solid critiques on her classmates' work. She could already write; just wanted to learn about memoirs, maybe needed some company, somebody to read her work. She mentioned she had a Website. Nothing much, just monthly reports for friends--about living with ALS. They were publishable. I told her so.
She got weaker. One day her driver pulled up in front of the building. She could walk two steps from car to chair, but slowly, carefully. A friend pushed her around. Then she stopped coming to class.
I kept following her reports. She used a voice device with her computer. One day she wrote what she said would be her last entry. Not enough breath left to put a word on the screen. Went into a special home for people with nerve diseases. Finally, one of her friends told me they were arranging to publish her memoir. An e-mail, just a couple of weeks ago--they had the books. I ordered one, and started to read it the minute it came.
Toward the middle she mentioned the class. And me, the "incomparable class leader." I cried.
Carter Jefferson is editor of The Internet Review of Books. He also is a member of the Internet Writing Workshop.