Susan Spencer-Wendel was a writer whose best-selling book Until I Say Goodbye chronicled her fight to live well as she fought Lou Gehrig's disease. She was a well-regarded court reporter for The Palm Beach Post when she first noticed a change in her health in 2009. It would be two years before she was diagnosed, but by then she had made up her mind: she would live her remaining days as best she could, travel the places she dreamed of going and complete a long goodbye to those she loved.
She went to California to find her birth mother; to New York, where her teenage daughter tried on wedding dresses for a glimpse of a day they'll never share; to Budapest, where she and her husband retraced footsteps of an earlier life; to the Yukon, in a vain attempt to see the Northern Lights with her best friend; to the Caribbean, to Cyprus, and so on.
Along the way, she wrote stories about two of her trips for the Post that caught the eye of HarperCollins, which gave her a $2.3 million deal, and Universal Pictures, which followed with a seven-figure offer. She tapped out most of Until I Say Goodbye on her iPhone using just her right thumb. After it was published last year it briefly figured in the bestseller lists of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Publisher's Weekly.
Spencer-Wendel said she was grateful she was not a born a guitarist, as she lost use of her hands, or a dancer, as she lost use of her legs. She continued to write to the end, using her nose to type final messages. "I am not gone," she wrote in her book. "I have more to give. I know the end is coming but do not despair."µ MATT SEDENSKY
Susan Spencer, writer: born Fort Lauderdale, Florida 28 December 1966; married John Wendel (three children); died 4 June 2014.