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Home » Lessons From My Father’s Final Days: Laurel Braitman (Transcript) 

Lessons From My Father’s Final Days: Laurel Braitman (Transcript) 

Here is the full transcript of writer Laurel Braitman’s talk titled “Lessons From My Father’s Final Days” at TED Talks 2024 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


An Unconventional Childhood

You could say I had an unconventional childhood for a couple reasons. I was born to Jewish avocado and citrus growers in rural Southern California. My dad was a surgeon at our local hospital and my mom ran the ranch where she sold, we sold our fruit commercially and they rescued donkeys. My early childhood was so beautiful, strange, and very privileged.

You could say that I really had nothing to worry about until I did. When I was three and my dad was 42, he was diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer. And he was told he had six months to live. He had his right leg amputated and he went in for chemo and radiation, which in the early 1980s for bone cancer was especially brutal.

A Miraculous Recovery

And then miraculously, he didn’t die. First we got a year, then we got two, then we got five, and then we got seven. And then when I was 11, the cancer came back and stayed for good. We lived between scans, like that’s how our time was meted out, and we lived with the constant ticking clock of mortality.

We all have a clock like this, it’s just in my family, we could hear ours all the time. More often than not, one of his scans turned up something. Back tumor here, a neck tumor there, his other knee, and then he would go in for treatment and then he would come back to us. It was a little bit like a sinister version of the giving tree, only he was trading body parts for time with us.

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