Beathard: When reality strikes in paradise |

Beathard: When reality strikes in paradise

Jill Beathard

I was supposed to write a column two weeks ago, on my way back to the States from Italy.

I planned to write it during my three-hour layover in New York City, because what else would I be doing then? But when I got there, I realized it was going to be a pain to type the thing out on my little iPad, and besides that, I didn’t have good service or wireless. So, I emailed the people covering for me to let them know I couldn’t do it, which didn’t go through, proving the theory that the wireless was no good.

If I really wanted to, I could have written the thing from home in Dallas that night and attempted to send it over my parents’ crappy wireless. But I didn’t. The truth is, I wasn’t willing to jump through hoops to get back to work. I wasn’t ready to go back to work. I wasn’t ready to come back to reality.

Because even in this little sliver of paradise, reality finds its way in, particularly if you stay long enough to care about a few people. We’d already had a heavy dose of reality at The Aspen Times this spring, and I knew I needed every second of those 10 days.

Despite prolonging my escape, however, reality struck again on June 2, when our fearless leader Gunilla Asher lost her battle with cancer.

For someone who was always looking death in the face, Gunilla was more alive than anyone I knew. She was bright, witty and always in for a good time. She loved her children, her husband and her friends, and she loved Aspen and being the publisher of one of its local newspapers.

She took pride in that — in fact, she was proud of all her accomplishments. Whenever I told her I had been to the Sky Hotel, she’d remind me that the pool there opened to the public under her watch.

When some former Aspen Times reporters came back in town for Stewart Oksenhorn’s memorial, Gunilla happened to be in the office, and we all got to have lunch with her in the conference room. She had just come back from a treatment in Denver and wasn’t sure what she’d be able to keep down. But she was slinging jokes at the guys and giving them a hard time, and they were flabbergasted at being put on the spot and at how gorgeous she looked, as sick as she was.

When they were out of the room she turned around and looked in the glass and said to me, “What is going on with my hair?”

Once, the very first time I hung out with her outside the office, she told me about the experience of losing her hair during chemotherapy (the first time she was diagnosed with cancer).

“I realized,” she said, “how vain we are.”

Well, she clearly still cared about her hair as recently as February. But if you lost it all, wouldn’t you?

Gunilla wasn’t vain. She was a woman trying to put her best foot forward in the world, even when she felt her worst. As a woman who uses lots of excuses to throw on a hoodie, I took note of that.

I took note of a lot of things Gunilla did, whether she realized it or not. Goodbye, sweet friend, for now. I love you and will not forget you.

Jill Beathard is the editor of the Snowmass Sun. Contact her at


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