Do you have any friends that live impossible distances away, that you interact with maybe a couple of times a year, and yet when you do get together it’s as if you’d seen them just the other day? I hope you do.
My long-distance friend Tom Negrino is choosing to die this week after a long, cancerous slide past the point where living has any meaning. And I don’t say that lightly or glibly, as if the misfortune of illness is reason enough to chuck it all in. For all the time I’ve known him, he’s walked with a cane, but I learned only a few years ago that it’s because he was born with spina bifida. As his wife Dori Smith said in an article about Tom’s choice, “When he was born, in the 1950s, only one out of 10 people born with spina bifida lived and of those, only one out of 10 ever walked. Tom was in the 1 percent who lived and walked.”
So imagine an entire life of physical pain and difficulty, and then top it with kidney cancer that was removed in 2010 and that reappeared everywhere in 2014. I honestly cannot imagine it.
I got to know Tom as a fellow technology book writer for Peachpit Press and frequent Macworld magazine contributor. We shared the best book editor in the world, Nancy Davis, and lamented when she was promoted out of a position where she was personally editing titles (although she’d sometimes make time to edit our books for a short while).
Most of our time spent together in person was at Macworld Expo, where at parties we’d nestle into a booth at an invariably-too-loud-for-conversation venue, and talk about business, personal stuff, whatever. Occasionally he’d call me out of the blue to talk about rates and contract items and other miscellaneous topics that working writers share. And I still remember a sunny lunch with Tom and Dori in their home town of Healdsburg when he spilled the beans that two other friends in the area, who I knew had known each other for years, had begun dating (hi Toby and Jim!).
The last time I saw Tom and Dori was at the final Macworld conference in 2014. Not having that type of large nexus for like-minded geeks to coalesce has been unfortunate, but I’m sure that if Tom wasn’t ill and we ran into each other today, our conversation would be just like picking up on the previous ones.
Peace and good rest, Tom.