The Sunday Magazine: What Comes After?

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I have been having a hard time focusing on writing for the last 24 hours. When I got home from work on Friday night I checked into my Facebook news feed to find that my colleague in perfume writing Tama Blough had passed away earlier in the day. For those unaware Tama had been diagnosed a few months ago with a terminal case of cancer. Her friends who spanned a number of different communities, including perfume, all donated to a fund so she could live her last months on her own terms. That effort was successful as Tama passed away in her apartment surrounded by the things in her life that gave her joy. Most of us will never have the chance to make sure our final moments are as well lived as Tama’s were. I know this makes all who helped this come about feel better about her passing. But yet I am still sad and I know I shouldn’t be.

I only met Tama in person one time and it happened a little less than a year ago at Esxence in Milan. We had worked together as editors for the perfume blog CaFleureBon for a little over three years. She was a constant joy to work with as she always treated the work we did together on the blog as something worth doing. We connected over our mutual passion not only for perfume but our desire to talk about it and communicate about it. We both enjoyed giving early reviews to debut perfume lines we thought were good. She would happily relate when she would receive an e-mail from an independent perfumer thanking her for the piece she wrote. It was the kind of feedback a lot of writers don’t receive, they are more used to the less desirable kind. Tama never received any of the less desirable feedback because she was a genuine person. That is an extremely rare quality. Tama didn’t have ulterior motives or hidden agendas she lived her life pursuing her passions with a refreshing honesty and they were part of her. Think of how many people exist in your life for whom that description applies. I would suspect most can count that on one hand.

tama and yosh

Tama (l.) and Yosh Han

This is why I think Tama’s passing is bothering me because there is one less genuine person I know. Another person more well-known than Tama passed away due to cancer this week; ESPN SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott. Much like Tama he was able to co-ordinate his final days so he continued to work right up until the very end. Earlier in the year he gave a speech when he received an award in courage. His words apply to any who have lost people to cancer and there are three thoughts he observed that I am going to finish with.

“Our life’s journey is really about the people that touch us.” I don’t think Tama wasn’t aware of how much she was adored in her various communities. The outpouring of love from all corners of her life allowed her the opportunity to see that as she finished her life’s journey.

“Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you” Those who came forward when Tama needed to lay down were instrumental in allowing her final days to be the best they could be. I want to thank the team behind the Give Forward effort: Nina Zolotow, Heidi Schroeder, Ruth Kaminski, Brooke Baird, and Elizabeth Dietrich; plus others who are not listed who stood up as Tama had to lay down. All of you should be proud of your efforts on her behalf.

“When you die it does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live…..Have a great rest of your life.” This is something I have always believed. Tama leaves behind a life lived well so she could indulge her passions and gather anyone she could into a fragrant hug. If she could have I am sure she would have wished all of us who have known her to have a great rest of your life. That s is how I will move beyond my morose feelings of the last day or so. I will strive to have a great rest of my life and the next time I smell an amazing tuberose perfume I will think to myself, “Tama would’ve loved this one.”

Mark Behnke

One thought on “The Sunday Magazine: What Comes After?

  1. Thank you, Mark for such a lovely tribute. Tama was an incredibly generous and compassionate person. I am grateful to have called her a friend. 

    Liz

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