The Upshot

Marina Keegan: Yale grad’s final essay gets new life after writer’s death

The Upshot

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This undated photo released by the Keegan family shows Marina Keegan, of Wayland, Mass. (AP Photo/Keegan Famil …

A 22-year-old Yale graduate, Marina Keegan, who penned her life's lessons in a final column for the Yale Daily News, died just days after commencement. But the words of her work, "The Opposite of Loneliness," have lived on.

The Massachusetts resident died in a car crash on her way to a vacation house on Cape Cod when the driver, Michael Gocksch, lost control of the car. Gocksch survived, but Keegan was pronounced dead on the scene.

The young writer was already making a name for herself in the literary world. She had published stories in the New York Times and had a job with the New Yorker she was about to start.

News of her loss led the Yale newspaper to put Keegan's final essay on the Web, and searches on her essay began to grow as Keegan's future colleagues linked to it on Twitter. Yahoo! searches for "Marina Keegan" shot up in one day, along with "Marina Keegan obituary," and "Marina Keegan Yale."

Some tweeted obits from the New Yorker and the Paris Review, and others mentioned her journalism that took on Wall Street, and her ambitions as a playwright. But most simply linked to Keegan's final column, and let her speak for herself.

The class of 2012 member wrote to her fellow grads, "We don't have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I'd say that's how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don't have to lose that." She added, "We're in this together, 2012. Let's make something happen to this world."

Comments to the essay on Yale's site are heartfelt. This one from hzaleskimd is typical: "After reading the above piece, I can tell that she was a wonderful, caring and insightful person. Her loss is tragic, not solely for the family but for all of us and those whose lives in the future she would have affected."

From scientist_always_in_training, "As a young Yale alumn, this piece is so very real and heart-wrenching. My deepest condolences to Marina's family and friends. May Marina's memory live on, and remind us just to what degree life is precious."

Keegan's advice was wise beyond her years. She wrote,

"What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it's too late to do anything is comical. It's hilarious. We're graduating college. We're so young. We can't, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it's all we have."

Keegan left her fellow grads with this haunting message, "We're so young. We're so young. We're twenty-two years old. We have so much time."

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