By Bill Haltom
Our partner and dear friend Elizabeth Collins passed away Thursday, May 23, 2013, after a long and courageous battle with cancer.
Elizabeth never wanted to be a hero. She did not want to be a role model, a mentor, or an inspirational figure.
She did not want to be a poster child for recovery or survival.
She was in fact all of these things, but that’s not what she wanted.
What Elizabeth wanted was to live. She wanted to live life fully, compassionately, competitively, and fervently.
Nearly nine years ago, doctors gave Elizabeth some devastating news. They told her she had advanced breast cancer and that her prognosis was terrible. One doctor told her that nothing could be done for her, and she had only 3 to 6 months to live. Another doctor gave her a slightly more favorable prognosis. With treatment she had a 2 percent chance to live 5 years.
Elizabeth responded to the news as most of us would. She was shocked and scared, angry and resentful, emotional and tearful. She raged and prayed. And then she decided to do something. Elizabeth decided to live.
When her doctors told her at the age of 42 that she had only an infinitesimal chance of living a full life, she got a second opinion, her own. She was going to live and live big. For the rest of her life, she was going to have the time of her life.
Elizabeth had long been an athlete. She was a star tennis player at Millsaps College. And when the doctors told her she was very sick, she responded by demonstrating how healthy she was. The former college tennis player began to compete in local distance races, becoming a regular in the annual St. Jude Marathon. But for Elizabeth, it wasn’t enough just to run. She also had to swim, bike, hike and climb.
She competed in triathlons and marathon bike races.
She climbed mountains, literally and metaphorically.
She even once repelled down the side of a Memphis skyscraper, just for the thrill of it.
While she didn’t join her dear friend Kim Johnson in the Marines, she did go to “boot camp,” a vigorous fitness program run by her gym, Inside Out.
And as if she had to prove that she was in fact a survivor, she trekked through “survivor expeditions” in the Rocky Mountains.
Elizabeth had long been a fierce adversary in the courtroom or on the tennis court. But over 8 years ago, after receiving the horrific medical report, she began to compete more fervently than ever.
Elizabeth was a fighter. But she also had a big heart. In the face of her own challenges, she reached out to help her fellow lawyers in distress, serving as a Commissioner of the Tennessee Lawyer’s Assistance Program to help lawyers who struggle with addictions or mental or emotional issues.
This lawyer who represented doctors in effect prescribed her own course of treatment for her cancer. She would help others who faced the sort of challenges she had faced and continued to face.
In 2011, Elizabeth received the highest honor bestowed by the Memphis Bar Association, the Judge Jerome Turner Lawyer's Lawyer Award. She was the youngest recipient in the history of the award. She truly was a lawyer’s lawyer, but she was much more. While she never aspired to be a role model, she became an inspirational source for her legion of friends as she lived each day with intensity.
Over the years, she made frequent trips to MD Anderson Medical Center in Houston for treatment, even undergoing a risky stem cell transplant. Her cancer never went away, but there were times when she felt great and truly believed that her prayers, and the prayers of her friends across the country, had been answered.
And then, last fall, her cancer no longer responded to the treatment. Her body grew progressively weaker, but her spirit and determination remained strong.
In December, she could not run the St. Jude Half Marathon…and so, she walked it. She walked 13 miles with her friend Claudia Haltom at her side. It took her nearly 4 hours, but Elizabeth crossed the finish line.
In January, on a cold winter night, literally hundreds of her friends joined Elizabeth at the University Club to celebrate her 50th birthday. Her closest friends knew that Elizabeth was in great pain that night. But she got out on the dance floor…and she sang and danced and laughed. And she triumphantly announced, “I have lived a half century!”
In short, Elizabeth did exactly what she aspired to do…she lived. She lived life fully and passionately and brought joy to all of us who were blessed to share life with her.
We will miss this remarkable woman who taught us to be grateful to be alive and to demonstrate that gratitude by living each day to the fullest.
We recently welcomed Robert T. Jolly as the newest associate to Thomason Hendrix. Mr. Jolly is a 2006 graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law, where he participated in the Public Service Internship Program. Following law school, Mr. Jolly served as judicial law clerk to Chief United States Magistrate Judge John M. Roper in Gulfport, Mississippi. Mr. Jolly has extensive litigation experience and has defended clients in state and federal courts in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Thomason Hendrix attorney Bill Haltom served as the speaker and moderator for a series of civility programs co-sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.
The civility tour began at the Univeristy of Memphis School of Law on the topic of civility in the public arena. The tour then moved to Nashville for a discussion of civility in our courts. The final stop was in Knoxville, where the topic was "Balancing Civility and Free Expression for Effective Governance." Mr. Haltom led a panel discussion featuring Governor Bill Haslam and former Governors Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist. The panel explored civility in political campaigns and debates, in the legislature, and in interactions with voters and interest groups.
The first annual Chairman's Award of the Memphis Area Association of Governments was presented to Thomason Hendrix attorney Marty Regan for his outstanding service to local charities in the community and his commitment to truly go above and beyond to help MAAG realize its mission to work aggressively to create strong, healthy, vibrant communities by accessing all public resources available.
Memphis Area Association of Governments serves as a regional clearinghouse to county governments in Fayette, Lauderdale, Shelby and Tipton in Tennessee; Desoto in Mississippi; and Crittenden in Arkansas for federal and state programs in support of economic, housing and community development initiatives. MAAG works closely with member governments and nonprofit organizations to identify craft and advocate for legislation and public policy that serves to improve the overall quality of life for residents.
On February 7, 2013, Michael E. Keeney gave a presentation to the Mid-South Chapter of the Medical Management Association titled "Handling Medical Malpractice Lawsuits: What to Expect."
MGMA is an organization that facilitates networking, professional education and resources and political advocacy for medical practice management.