Imagine your significant other has cancer. Now imagine finding out your best friend, who you were supposed to see in a few hours, died in a sudden plane crash. For Carole Radziwill, this was her grim reality.
Radziwill shared her unforgettable tale in “What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love,” which I was recently privileged to read for my Sociology of Death class.
Right away Radziwill captivates the readers in her prologue with the alarming scene of losing her best friend Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, wife of John F. Kennedy Jr. to a tragic accident.
Radziwill then backtracks from the big day to her childhood in New York. She describes visiting her Grandma Millie’s cabin in the summer and looking into a whole other world away from the crowded city. At night her aunts and uncles would play games and Radziwill would look down from her loft wishing she were part of it.
Radziwill ended up graduating from Hunter College in New York City and became a production secretary with a news program called “Close-Up!” Once the show was canceled, she started reporting alongside Peter Jennings and eventually met her husband, Anthony Radziwill during a trial.
Radziwill and Anthony’s story was not at all romantic which made it more authentic compared to over-the-top, cheesy love stories in movies. The two started out as colleagues and soon started going on dates.
Not far into the relationship, Radziwill and Anthony find out he has a bump on his stomach. At first, they were hoping it was just a hematoma, but the results came back as cancer.
The remaining portion of Radziwill’s memoir describes the roller coaster experience of their tragic villain, cancer. Anthony was insistent on keeping his illness a secret, which became very difficult toward the end of his cancer battle and put a strain on his relationship with Radziwill.
Fortunately, Radziwill had Carolyn to confide in and support her during the multiple doctor visits in Washington D.C. Carolyn acts as a means of distraction through her girl’s night fun.
By the end of the memoir Radziwill is left all alone with no one to turn to. All that remains are her memories.
“Ultimately what remains is a story. In the end, it’s the only thing any of us really owns,” Radziwill said.
The memoir leaves one begging question—is there a Kennedy curse?