The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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Chapter 16 Summary


The day Rebecca Skloot met Henrietta’s cousin Cootie, he explained that the Lacks family rarely spoke about illnesses or the dead. People knew about Henrietta’s cells, but they no longer said much about Henrietta herself. As he put it, "...her cells done lived longer than her memory.”

Cootie sent Rebecca to speak with another cousin, Cliff, who had been like a brother to Henrietta when they were children. Cliff gave Rebecca a tour of the home-house, which was now unoccupied and falling down from disuse. He also took her to the graveyard where most of the Lacks family was buried. A few of the graves had stones, but most, like Henrietta’s, were unmarked. Cliff found the stone for Henrietta’s mother and pointed out three unmarked graves nearby. He was pretty sure that one of them was Henrietta’s.

During the graveyard tour, Cliff mused aloud about how strange it was that scientists could keep a dead woman’s cells alive for so many years. He called it “a miracle” that cancer cells could be used to cure disease. Then he shouted at the ground, telling Henrietta that her cells had helped people.

Cliff also commented that black and white members of the Lacks family were buried together in the...

(The entire section is 420 words.)