Karen & Kurt 
Edgewood in St. Denis

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Smart Woman

Pamela Mercer, Reporter and Friend

Posted by karenandkurt on August 5, 2013 at 3:50 PM

I have written obituaries before, and I have written them for people who were friends and acquaintances. But this obituary for a friend isn’t running in my newspaper.

I have been looking for Pamela’s obituary online all morning. I haven’t found it. She died last Wednesday. I have emailed her sister and hope to learn her family’s arrangements.

Pamela deserves an obit. We all do, but those of us who pledge to seek the truth and report it deserve this one last time for our names to appear in print, for this one time to have our stories told. Pamela was always very guarded with her story, she shared some of it with me and the rest was just a sly smiled that always seemed to say, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” I’m not even sure how old she is, though the earliest published story I can find by her is from 1993, making her about mid-40s.

Pamela had a way of putting words on paper that took you to the news – interviews with drug lords, survivors of massacres, ordinary people quietly living extraordinary lives. She was compassionate to the one who was oppressed – whether they were the marginalized of Florida, the family trying to survive in a land ruled by narco-terrorists or the caller on the telephone whose child is affected by ADHD and the school won’t help her. She also had a sharp tongue and typed her thoughts too quickly, not always thinking through what the results might be (I know this personally, as I paid a price for some of her actions at work). She could be loving, and she could be unforgiving.

She believed whole-heartedly in the mission of CHADD, though she could not find happiness at the National Resource Center on ADHD. It hurt her to walk away from her work in helping people affected by ADHD but it was something she needed to do; I know she was happy at her new position for many months before her cancer returned.

She has three sisters, I believe, along with her mother and several nieces and nephews. Some of her sisters live here in the States, while her mother lives at the family home in Colombia. Again with that sly look, she said her father had been some type of diplomat from the United States, which made her a U.S. citizen. She was brought to Florida for dangerous open heart surgeries as a child – surgeries that in the high elevation of Colombia would have killed her. I remember when CHADD’s conference was at Disney a few years ago. She was so happy because, for her, that was as close as she could get to going home because she had spent so much time there a child during that period of surgeries and recovery. It was the happiest I had ever seen her.

As a child she was educated in Europe and moved with her parents in diplomatic circles. She lost her father at some point in young adulthood. She attended Tufts University where she earned a degree in English and Political Science. Starting in Latin America and her Colombian home, she used that degree to expose drug violence, political corruption, human rights concerns and poverty. She was the voice for the voiceless.

Pamela freelanced for the New York Times and the Associated Press. She wrote on the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald and later for the Orlando Sentinel. In Miami, she covered minority and Hispanic affairs, Spanish-speaking peoples and business and community. In Orlando, she covered education and community. Again, she sought to be the voice for those who were not heard in Florida.

She came up to Washington, DC, to better herself and her career. She campaigned for President Obama because she believed he would help to improve people’s lives. She believed it was her responsibility to help improve people’s lives.

When we first met, we didn’t always get along. I remember storming out of one meeting when we had clashed about education and tradition. But I was married only five months when I was diagnosed with DCIS, a form of breast cancer. As I explained to my colleagues what I was going through, she said something that to my own reporter’s ear meant that she knew a lot more than she let on.

From that day forward, Pamela was my friend. She always signed her personal emails to me “Love you” and she sent email to my cat, Luca, in her persona of a lioness. She offered me strength when I was weak and support when I was afraid. She shared information with me and guidance. She didn’t always agree with my decisions but she stood by them. She told me more about her health than she shared with anyone else but she never told me the complete story. There was more wrong than a Stage II or III diagnosis or childhood open heart surgery. I knew something was seriously wrong when she said she didn’t expect that it would be cancer that would kill her.

Pamela last emailed me two months ago and I dragged my feet in replying to her and then wondered why she didn’t reply to me. I thought she was ticked that I had taken so long to reply and that she was giving me a dose of my own medicine. But in her last email she wrote that she had been ill. She didn’t tell me it was a return of the cancer. I wish she had. Our Editor in Heaven, I wish she had!

Pamela did not have a personal faith in God, but she respected mine. She knew I prayed for her and was gracious about that. When she would shout “JESUS CHRIST!” out of frustration at the computer or some new policy, I took to warning her that if she kept calling out for Jesus, he would come into her life.

In my personal theology, God is the Great Editor and we are all the writers of the story of our own lives. My hope and prayer now is that the Editor has called her into his office and she is the latest member of the Great Newsroom among the Communion of Saints. That in her new role, where ever and however it may be, that she continues to be a voice for the voiceless.

Pamela Mercer

A selection of Pamela’s work:

Categories: Deep Thoughts

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Reply C Giles Lawson
9:48 PM on August 14, 2013 
Thank you so much for writing this. I am a member of a breast cancer forum that Pamela was an active member of, though we knew her only by her screen name. I am not alone in admiring her candor, intelligence and wit. On the forum, we knew her cancer had progressed, but she was guarded about the details. This seems consistent with your description of her. She will be very much missed but always remembered. How lovely to finally see her beautiful face. May she rest in peace.
Reply karenandkurt
10:04 AM on August 15, 2013 
Hello C:

Thank you for your kind response. She will be deeply missed. I had the honor of attending her funeral service and meeting her family after writing this piece. I think Pamela Lived her life the way she wanted to and she did it intentionally, something we all aspire to do. I know she cared deeply for the women she talked with on the forums. I hope all is well with you.

C Giles Lawson says...
Thank you so much for writing this. I am a member of a breast cancer forum that Pamela was an active member of, though we knew her only by her screen name. I am not alone in admiring her candor, intelligence and wit. On the forum, we knew her cancer had progressed, but she was guarded about the details. This seems consistent with your description of her. She will be very much missed but always remembered. How lovely to finally see her beautiful face. May she rest in peace.
Reply NoMoreMeh
3:40 PM on August 15, 2013 
Thanks so much for this beautiful tribute to our sweet Pamela. She was a good friend and great confidant. I too am a breast cancer survivor, although that is not what connected me to Pamela.

I also prayed for Pamela, even though I know she was agnostic. She respected my beliefs and I respected hers. I am praying for her family and hope thjey are finding comfort and strength in this loss.
Reply Tanya Jurado
8:21 AM on October 9, 2013 
Dear Karen,

Thank you so much for writing about Pamela. I stumbled upon your obituary over a week ago and I was very saddened and shocked to read about her death. You capture Pamela really well and you helped me fill in some of the gaps in her life.

Although we hadn't spoken for many years we were very close school friends and I always considered her as one of my special friends. Somehow I foolishly assumed that one day we would meet again. I took it for granted that we would hook up at some point, either in Colombia or elsewhere, and take off from where we left off twenty years ago.

Pamela was someone of outstanding intelligence and compassion. She was always there for me, even the last time we communicated (about two or three years ago) and I tried to probe as I could sense something was not quite right. Her reply was quintessential Pamela, "you don't want to know". She was wrong, but her sentiment was noble and generous. At the time I lived even further away from the States than I do now - our logistics were impossible and friendships with Pamela were all or nothing. I let it go, I knew Pamela well enough to understand that for her privacy was everything. I sensed her struggle with various issues in her life, I witnessed her strength, I loved her smile and that sparkle in her eye when she laughed, I miss her and treasure her memory. She remains with me in my very small group of special friends.

Thank you so much for sharing this sad news.

Warm regards,

Tanya Jurado

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