Jennifer Goodman Linn was honored on Friday at the Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City, where nearly 800 family and friends, and the Cycle of Survival community, celebrated her life through tears -- and at Jen's request – laughter and smiles.
"Jen understood what life was all about," said Rabbi Peter Kasdan, rabbi emeritus of Temple Emanu-El of West Essex. "She knew its fragility and brevity. She made a decision when she was just a little girl that she would not waste one breath to mediocrity or lose one moment to idleness."
Jen founded in 2006, which has raised more than $9 million for research of rare cancers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. She was a graduate of Livingston High School, Duke University, and Harvard Business School. She held high-power marketing jobs, and she shared on a blog called You Fearless the of her journey with a rare cancer.
I knew Jen, my sister's friend, through her You Fearless blogs and Jen's family -- her parents Len and Sandy Goodman and brother Brett, his wife Emily and their sons -- as Cycle for Survival quickly became one of the nation's fastest-growing charities, a success story tempered by the repeated relapses, surgeries and chemotherapy Jen endured.
This past fall my sister Jeanne Joyce Silberman introduced Jen's story at the Livingston Hall of Fame dinner, an evening Jen was too ill to attend. (See the Livingston Education Foundation's tribute here). On Valentine's Day weekend, Jeanne and Greer Gelman, a kindergarten teacher at Collins, organized a satellite fundraiser of the annual event in New York City, bringing in dozens of and neighbors to raise money for the cause.
The outpouring of support “is so bittersweet, so beautiful,” Sandy Goodman observed at the time.
Only a few days before this event, another Livingston family would learn of a rare cancer diagnosis for their daughter. Just as Jen had done, Sydney Becker, a 13-year-old with a flair for writing, has been sharing her diagnosis and treatment and life, everything from her experiences at camp to the antics of her pets, on a blog she posts on Caring Bridge.
Last month, Jen and Sydney met face-to-face for a brief visit. Jen was in the last stages of her uphill battle and Sydney was at Sloan Kettering for another round of chemo. Friday on her blog, Sydney reflected on their meeting. "She was so bright and full of energy, even when she wasn't feeling so well. Jen still continues to be a role model for me. She taught me to live out your life, never give up on your goals, and that you can make a difference in the world. Jen, rest in peace, you will always be an inspiration to everyone."
Jen died on July 20 after living the past seven years with a rare cancer called sarcoma. She celebrated her 40th birthday this past March, living what she called a "fearless" life. "I may have cancer, but cancer does not have me," was among her fondest sayings. (See her entry on her 40th birthday -- and dance video -- here on You Fearless).
Jen and her husband David founded Cycle for Survival, a spinning event that grew from Jen's own exercise regiment. "The genius of Cycle for Survival is that Jen and David created a community, a group comprised not just of friends and family, but also co-workers, neighbors, old school mates, distant relatives, indeed all of us," Brett Goodman said at his sister's funeral.
"It is this community that will comfort those who mourn today, that will energize those who feel weak, that will enliven those who feel sad, and will preserve the everlasting spirit of my sister," he said.
Plans are in motion for 2012. Jeanne and Greer and their committee, including Sydney's father Jeff Becker, are organizing Cycle for Survival in Livingston on Feb. 11 at the Livingston Senior Community Center. The money goes directly to research – 13 new treatment trials in the past year alone.
The Livingston committee is reaching out to businesses and health and fitness studios to donate spin bikes for the event. "Jen would want us to think big, so that's what we're doing," my sister said. Already Hillary Schumer, owner of Hills Fit Studio in Livingston, has offered 20 bikes. On Sunday, she led a "spinspirational ride" in Jen's memory.
At her funeral, friends wore their Cycle for Survival t-shirts and the event's theme song played during the processional. Jen would appreciate the efforts to pick up the "fearless" fight just where it was left off, her brother said.
In lieu of flowers, Jen preferred that you please consider donations to Cycle for Survival (www.cycleforsurvival.org) to keep alive her determined fight to eradicate rare cancers. To make a donation or send a note to the family, click here