Lauren Hesse, 1966-2010: A Legacy

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Lauren Hesse , 1966-2010
  • Lauren Hesse
Last week I devoted some space to chronicling the funeral of former Tennessee lieutenant governor John Wilder, who had died at the age of 89. As moving and well-attended as the last rites for the venerable Wilder had been, that event in Somerville clearly evoked the end of a life cycle.

It was otherwise in Memphis this past weekend as the friends of Lauren Hesse concluded what had been a week-long vigil with the funeral of the young activist — she had made it one day past her 44th birthday — at St. Anne’s Catholic Church.

Appropriately, Hesse had been buried in the casual garb that had been hers as a mainstay of so many local causes and cultural institutions — the Center for Southern Folklore, the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival, and Celtic music events everywhere, including the ClamJamFry festival in Memphis.

Most of these involvements were in tandem with her longtime partner Steve Steffens, otherwise known as the well-read blogger LeftWingCracker. She had relatively recently been brought into the orbit of the group of young and youngish progressives who met weekly at R and P Billiards on Highland under the rubric of Drinking Liberally, an ad hoc festival in its own right.

By the time of her unexpected and premature passing, apparently brought on by heart failure occasioned by an asthmatic attack, Hesse had become as central a figure as any in this group of bloggers and political activists and had wholly captured their affections.

From the onset of her illness to the time of her burial on Saturday, Hesse was attended by her loving family, by stout-hearted friends, and by a host of well wishers from the political world — mostly Democrats but including some independents and Republicans as well. It was rank-and-file and Who’s who all at once, and it was informed by a spirit, not of a completed life cycle as in the case of Wilder, but of an interrupted life and one that was continuing in the work and thoughts and lives of those Lauren Hesse left behind.

Walter Bolton, a deacon at St. John’s Church and an uncle of the deceased, struck exactly the right note when he observed that survivor Steffens, as a Buddhist, was like himself, as a Catholic, in believing that Lauren’s soul was eternal.

And you could see concrete evidence of that in the days after the funeral when Steffens and his fellow bloggers, like the valiant Trace Sharp (Newscoma), who had come down from Dresden for the week of vigil, went back to work. It was still them writing, but there were indelible traces of Lauren Hesse in what they did. You could tell.

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