Saul Friedman 1929 - 2010
The Days of Christmas

My Friend, My Teacher - Saul Friedman

category_bug_journal2.gif Of course, I had known this day would come. Saul had told me about his stroke, his later treatment for esophageal cancer and more recently, a stomach cancer.

Some months ago, he said, he had gone into hospice care and then explained in a column in May 2010 that it is available from Medicare if a physician states in writing that you have six months to live.

I knew all that. But each week, Saul's Gray Matters column (and every other week, his Reflections column) arrived via email well ahead of our deadline and I came to believe – or refused to think otherwise – that they would continue indefinitely.

When giving his Small Miracles story a first read on 13 December, I was startled by the beginning of the final paragraph: “Before I leave...” Which shows you I didn't really forget the limit of Saul's days. Briefly, I wondered if those three words were a portent, a foreshadowing or a hint Saul was giving us, his readers. I brushed the thought aside.

Now I think maybe it was Saul's hint for us that his time was near.

I first “met” Saul in June 2008, when he reached out to me after the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare made us co-winners that year of their Media Excellence Award – he for print (at Newsday) and I for this blog.

I do not believe I should be regarded anywhere near his stature, but there we were together and I am grateful now that the NCPSSM made it possible for me to know this amazing man.

After half a century as a journalist, one weekly Newsday column couldn't possibly be enough for Saul and I was thrilled when he proposed a column at Time Goes By. Titled Reflections, it began at the end of 2008, and continued twice monthly. He still wrote about health care, politics, Social Security, Medicare, etc., but from a more personal point of view than his journalistic Gray Matter column.

Then in November 2009, Newsday, which had published Saul's Gray Matters column on Saturdays for more than a decade, instituted a paid firewall that would make Saul's work unavailable to his many readers throughout the country. Saul quit in protest and then inquired if I would publish Gray Matters at Time Goes By.

WOULD I?! I couldn't fire off that acceptance note fast enough and I have posted both his columns with enormous pride ever since. He became my teacher on our common subject, my friend and my mentor. When he sometimes emailed to compliment a story I'd written, I sailed around a foot off the ground for a day.

Just ten days before he died, Saul asked if I would select six of his best columns from 2010 to submit to the annual contest run by the Association of Health Care Journalists of which he was a member.

Six??? It took me a couple of days to winnow it down from so many that are worthy. I cannot think of a better way for us to celebrate this wonderful man than by recalling and taking time to re-read some of the words he has left us with.

One of the columns I chose for the contest was Esophageal Cancer for its personal point of view combined with Saul's always excellent reporting and information.

Last July, he ended his column celebrating the life of Dr. Robert N. Butler with these words:

“Would that Butler were still alive to continue his fight to preserve the social insurance legacy that helped give this century the longevity revolution he celebrated.”

And equally so for Saul. In his field, he worked as fully and tirelessly as Dr. Butler toward the same goals and it is devastating to lose both these men in the same year.

As important as Saul's work is on policy and health care, I am particularly fond of his more personal columns. Here is his take On Turning 80.

He told us a bit about his radical political past in Seeger and Me.

In a recent column, Saul told us he was planning to take his wife, Evelyn, to Egypt to show her the pyramids and the Nile which he had visited many years ago as a journalist. Sadly, that trip won't happen now, but they did get to Botswana together in 2009. You can read about that trip and see some of Saul's photos here.

If your holiday celebrations kept you from visiting Time Goes By over the weekend, please read this extraordinarily beautiful remembrance from Saul's grandson, a young man who appears to be well on his way to emulating his grandfather.

Saul may be gone now, but his work lives on and he can continue to educate us and point the way, particularly in regard to Social Security and Medicare that Congress members, at the behest of their corporate overlords will try to gut over the coming months in the names deficit reduction and austerity. A good starting place is Saul's recent column titled Social Security – The Anti-Ponzi Scheme.

A powerful voice has been silenced. Saul had a profound impact on me personally and professionally. I have always taken this blog seriously, but I cannot count the number of ways he urged me to strive to be even better. It has been a bittersweet Christmas weekend mixed with sadness and great happiness, too, to have had this fine man as a friend.

I got behind in preparing stories for The Elder Storytelling Place. It will return on Tuesday.


The comment says "Be the first of your friends to 'like' this on FB"...such an odd thing to see after reading the above. I have always loved his columns, and thrilled that he posted here. I remember reading about the trip to Egypt and thinking, if he can muster on, so can we all. His contribution during his lifetime is so enormous, I wonder if he know how many people he helped.

What a role model we've had in Saul! Thank you, Ronni, for providing the venue and giving us the opportunity to share your association with him.

I cried as I read your column, just as I cried on Saturday when I read about Saul's death. I also never believed he would leave us. His columns were wonderful, so intelligent and sane. Thank you for bringing his words to us.

Thank you Ronni for bringing Saul to TGB. He taught so well & so much, a little history from many perspectives, lots of insight & of course the humanity in his words. So glad to hear some of his columns will appear in print. Perhaps others will follow. Dee

You know, I thought so too; that he was saying goodbye.
From his choice of songs, artwork etc.
Dim the lights, mummer a prayer.

I am going to miss him. They don't make journalists like him anymore. I looked forward to his columns each week and that they will not be here anymore makes me sad.

My sincerest condolences to you, Ronni, and his all his loved ones.

So sorry, Ronni. Hugs

I too feel so lucky to have "known" Saul Friedman.

He was a good writer with a strong sense of humanity and doing his part for the world right up to the end. He will be missed as someone to read for his take on various subjects and a loss to those who loved him. We all go sometime but we are never ready to see it be someone we care for and from whom we want to continue hearing. So sorry.

You are fortunate to have "grown" under the influential Saul Friedman. I will miss his excellent columns -- barbara

Like many others, I have enjoyed and been enlightened by his columns. I was saddened to hear of his passing although I never met the man. It is a tribute to your blog that you were able to bring his more personal side to so many of us in blog country. Thank you for helping me to care for someone I never met.

I have been absent from the computer for a couple of days.

So sad to hear of Saul's death. We will miss his weekly wisdom-filled posts; the journalistic world has lost another giant.

Ronni, Saul Friedman was a highly principled man with a lot to offer as a mentor, friend and journalist. How fortunate that you collaborated with him as you did. I was saddened to hear of his passing. Sending condolences to you and his other friends and family.

Ronni, we all benefit from your Grand Collaboration with Saul and your other regular writers. TGB is a shining example of "synergy for seniors" and the power of connectivity. Saul was creative to the end, and we are fortunate that you furnished an outlet for him to share that with us. Age does not diminish us. Thanks for being the touchstone that reminds us of this.

Ronni - I have to admit when I saw your post Saul Friedman 1929-2010 - I thought wow Saul is writing a summation of the years that have gone by....I did not think it was a summation of Saul. I truly enjoyed reading his posts and I thank you for bringing all this enlightenment to me. May Saul Rest In Peace.

We will miss him. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. God bless you.

He will be missed.

Yes, thank you for writing this for all of us. What a gift he was......what an inspiration.

Saul will be missed by more people than we can know. I am so sorry.

Ronnie, My condolences to you on losing your friend, especially in the bleak mid-winter. Dianne

My condolences to Saul's family; I feel such a loss myself, I can only imagine theirs. So happy to have had the chance to know him through his writing.

Thank you Ronnie, and dear readers. It's comforting to hear your words about my dad. He will be missed..

I learned so much from him... Thank you for the links to the posts in this column, Ronni. I'm sorry for your fortunate we all were that you found him.

He thought the world of you and said so often. And his readers were people he worried about, constantly wanting to help. Gratitude to all who appreciated his work and life. We are heartbroken but so proud. His daughter, Lise

What wonderful children and grandchildren he created. Along with the knowledge it was always a treat to feel his personal side. My children know him from the esophageal cancer post but we all know him through you, Ronni. The world is a lesser place with his passing.

I read, and cried at, his grandson's beautiful piece last night - then went to Saul's early Dec. "Reflections" and clicked on that like button after reading it, which put a link to his piece on my Facebook page. If everyone would "Like" just one of Saul's articles his literary voice could be heard by even more people.

My heart goes out to you, Ronnie. I think you are being very brave about the loss of your friend, but it sounds as if he would want it no other way.

What a great voice. How lucky we were to have him for so long. And what a gratceful, public exit. Very beautiful.

Thank you Ronni for everything you do, ANC Happy New Year.

Saul Friedman hailed from the "glory days"of journalism. He is among the distinguished giants of his profession and one of the most insightful and personable newsmen I've ever had the pleasure of working with. He will be sorely missed. How glad I am that when we presented Saul with our Media Excellence Award in 2008 - our cameras were rolling.

I'm so sorry to read of his passing, Ronni.

To have had the wisdom of Saul Friedman as insight and a resource for anyone who truly cares about the challenges of aging has been a true gift indeed.

The respect and gratitude I have for his indelible spirit are without measure.

Rest in peace, dear man.

I was so impressed with Saul Friedman's ability to write wonderful, insightful, analytical prose up until shortly before his death. We can all only hope to have such clarity at the end of our days.

Thank you for giving Saul's work a voice on your blog.

"A powerful voice has been silenced" INDEED!

My husband recently made this comment, "G d lives in a nice place". So now, does Saul.

Thanks Ronnie, for bringing him to us.

As a Long Island gerontologist, it was always practical to read Saul Friedman's column in the newspaper before preparing my own lectures. He was one of the few analysts who actually understood Social Security and always gave people good advice.
He was sorely missed when he quit Newsday, but it was his integrity that called that play, and we never wanted anything less. The twin spirits of Butler and Friedman continue to shine in their written words, and perhaps in our hearts and minds.

I'm glad you were able to be mentored by Saul and have his friendship for we, too, benefited from that relationship. We were fortunate to have Saul write for us here. Certainly he recognized your skills, dedication and the potential of TGB to further his goals. I can only wish that many of his columns will continue to be read by others in the future, particularly those regarding the major issues we face.

Ronni, my condolences on the loss of your colleague, ally and friend. Thank you for bringing him to us and sharing his gifts these last few years.

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