She left us all too soon, my niece Jennifer

July 29, 2013 3:53 pm Published by 1 Comment

I dedicated my latest thriller to the memory of my niece Jennifer Guy who died of colon cancer in January of 2007. She was just about to turn thirty-one years old.

Here is what I said in my book’s dedication:

To my niece Jennifer Elizabeth Guy, a woman who embodied the courage, toughness, and intelligence of my protagonist, Linda Ann Kipling; February 25, 1976-January 27, 2007

If you’ve read any of the trilogy of my thrillers, you know that Linda Kipling is tough and courageous, having saved the life of her boss, Victor Silverstein, on two occasions. However, Jennifer combined Kipling’s strengths with a remarkable ability to reach out to all things living. More about that in a bit.

I didn’t meet Jennifer until 1983, the year before I married my wife, Becky; Jennifer had just turned seven.  Jennifer is the daughter of Becky’s sister, Brenda. Three years later, Jennifer and I had our first serious collaboration when I helped her with a science project for school. I forget how it came about, but somehow, because I was a meteorologist, we came up with the idea of building a barometer (the concept being a stretchy material covering the end of a can with a string connecting that surface to a gauge) to measure atmospheric pressure. Where Jennifer lived, there was a convenient hill nearby. So, to test the device, she and I drove up and down the hill (repeatedly) to verify that our instrument worked. She then proceeded to read her barometer at 7 AM and 7 PM, trying to relate the measurements to ongoing weather.

I still have a copy of Jennifer’s five-page Science Fair Report. I wish I could have written such a lucid report when I was ten years old. The first paragraph of her teacher’s summary (she got an A) said the following: “Yours was surely one of the greatest projects at the Science Fair this year, Jennifer. You did a beautiful job of studying your background information so that you thoroughly understood your topic before starting in. I wish I could say this for all.”

I watched as Jennifer transitioned from a ten-year old to a grown woman. We interacted often thereafter, but never with the intensity as when we were getting the barometer to work. After attending college back east, she developed an Internet-related business. What struck me about this period were the human connections she developed, but also her concern for all things living. She had a fervent regard for nature. I recall a story where she couldn’t bring herself to killing ants that had invaded her kitchen, developing instead a strategy to coexist with them. A fierce advocate of women’s issues, she provided support and friendship to many. She traveled and made the most of the decade before she got sick.

Jennifer was a woman whose life I would have loved to see unfold further. I think she would have liked Linda Kipling.

She left us all too soon, my niece Jennifer.

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