Remembering A True Survivor, Jennifer Lyon


My friend, Jennifer Lyon, lost her battle with breast cancer today and it is with a heavy heart that I write this piece.

Truth be told, I have been fortunate enough to never write an obituary before. There hasn’t been a lot of death in my life and for that I am very grateful. But with that fortune comes an even greater sorrow when someone does leave you.

The first thing that you are supposed to do in an obituary is remember a fond memory of the person that you are writing about. I stared at this screen for a few hours while I tried to think of one. Was it the karaoke night when I sang with Jen? When we danced together at a Halloween party? Or maybe it was the time when I dared her to kiss this one guy on the cheek that she didn’t want to. But eventually I came to a conclusion. That it would be impossible with Jennifer Lyon because there are too many good memories for me to mention.

When I first saw Jennifer Lyon on Survivor Palau, she instantly became one of my favorites. It wasn’t because of the way that she played or how she managed to survive the tough elements of the jungle. It was because whenever she stepped up to the voting booth at tribal council, you could see that she genuinely didn’t like voting someone off and that’s because she didn’t like to hurt people. She had radiance. A desire to love and be loved.

The first time I met Jen Lyon was in New York City at her finale. I stood outside a club for hours waiting for the cast to arrive and while it is a story that I don’t usually advertise or tell a lot, the reason that I mention it now is because Jen Lyon was one of the few who stopped to say hello. That was before she knew anything about me or before she became my friend. She stopped because that’s who Jen Lyon was. Somebody who stopped for strangers.

The first time that I bonded with Jen was at a Survivor event in Cocoa Beach, Florida. I believe it was in 2007. It was the first time I spent a lot of time with the nanny from Oregon and we had a great time. She matched me note for note at karaoke (not easy to do) and dance move for dance move on the floor. It was one of the best times I have had and I will always remember Jan’s Discovery Beach Restaurant for the good times that were had there.

In more recent times, I don’t remember Jen for any ailment she was struck with. I remember her for always being ready to go out and never showing any sign of weakness. Ever. At the Houston Survivor Challenge in 2009, she managed to get all the way to the end of the game and for those who have never attended, there are a lot of physical challenges involved which Jen not only participated in, but managed to conquer.

At the recent Survivor Samoa finale, Jen made it to a pre-Christmas charity benefit party and it was great to see for what would be our last meeting.

In the end, I will remember Jen Lyon not for being strong (which she was), or a Survivor (which she defined). I will remember her for her smile. She will never be silent. She will never be lost.

Jennifer Lyon
02/27/72 – 1/19/10