Remembering Judy

cropped-dscn0087.jpgMy friend died last night. I love her as I never loved a sister. She suffered a unfathomable illness with dignity and discretion for too long for me to say I am surprised today. No warning could ever have been enough to numb the pain of loss which follows the end of her ordeal.

I trusted Judith’s incredible wisdom.

The Dream

O god, in the dream the terrible horse began

To paw at the air, and make for me with his blows,

Fear kept for thirty-five years poured through his mane,

And retribution equally old, or nearly, breathed through his nose.

Coward complete, I lay and wept on the ground

When some strong creature appeared, and leapt for the rein.

Another woman, as I lay half in a swound

Leapt in the air, and clutched at the leather and chain.

Give him, she said, something of yours as a charm.

Throw him, she said, some poor thing you alone claim.

No, no, I cried, he hates me; he is out for harm,

And whether I yield or not, it is all the same.

But, like a lion in a legend, when I flung the glove

Pulled from my sweating, my cold right hand;

The terrible beast, that no one may understand,

Came to my side, and put down his head in love.

Louise Bogan from PoemHunters. com

She loved Jane Austen. The wonderful charm, wit and humor of Austen was shared by Judith.

I’ve a Pain in my Head

‘I’ve a pain in my head’

Said the suffering Beckford;

To her Doctor so dread.

‘Oh! what shall I take for’t?’

Said this Doctor so dread

Whose name it was Newnham.

‘For this pain in your head

Ah! What can you do Ma’am?’

Said Miss Beckford, ‘Suppose

If you think there’s no risk,

I take a good Dose

Of calomel brisk.’–

‘What a praise worthy Notion.’

Replied Mr. Newnham.

‘You shall have such a potion

And so will I too Ma’am.’

Jane Austen PoemHunters.com

Hours of conversation with Judith about the pitfalls of blind faith and the foundations of rationalism enriched our friendship.

“Faith” is a fine invention

185

“Faith” is a fine invention

When Gentlemen can see—

But Microscopes are prudent

In an Emergency.

Emily Dickinson  PoemHunters.com

Even into the months of her illness, Judith and I enjoyed sharing the names of good books and even good awful books! Though the years, her crackling fireplace on a cold afternoon in the Vermont light or the gently rocking boat moored on a summer day were wonderful seats to enjoy literary companionship.

A Book

There is no frigate like a book

To take us lands away,

Nor any coursers like a page

Of prancing poetry.

This traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of toll;

How frugal is the chariot

That bears a human soul!

Emily Dickinson    PoemHunters.com

From my days as an “angry young woman” filled with an undirected sense of confusion at life in an unjust society, Judith spoke a language I admired and understood. She could flash out in anger. She had personally seen the destruction which the paranoia of power, anti-Semitism and greed wreaked upon a life. Generally, however, Judith advocated justice by living. When she took up a cause, she did so with grace and rational argument. Her passion for justice sparkled in her eyes. She taught me to understand and articulate what I had previously only felt. She taught me to feel that which I might unthinkingly articulate. Judith and I shared frustration that we seemed to be continually revisiting the same issues with little lasting progress. A rational realist, Judith continued her advocacy despite such incremental change.

As I Grew Older

It was a long time ago.

I have almost forgotten my dream.

But it was there then,

In front of me,

Bright like a sun—

My dream.

And then the wall rose,

Rose slowly,

Slowly,

Between me and my dream.

Rose until it touched the sky—

The wall.

Shadow.

I am black.

I lie down in the shadow.

No longer the light of my dream before me,

Above me.

Only the thick wall.

Only the shadow.

My hands!

My dark hands!

Break through the wall!

Find my dream!

Help me to shatter this darkness,

To smash this night,

To break this shadow

Into a thousand lights of sun,

Into a thousand whirling dreams

Of sun!

Langston Hughes  PoemHunters.com

Judith appreciated diverse expressions of art, music and culture. We shared this as well.

I think over again my small adventures.

My Fears,

Those small ones that seemed so big

For all the vital things

I had to get to and to reach;

And yet there is only one great thing,

The only thing,

To live to see the great day that dawns

And the light that fills the world.

(Innuit poem, 19th century)

Judith turned to music and natural beauty when facing some of her own great losses in life and the darkest of her days.

I Am in Need of Music

I am in need of music that would flow

Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,

Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,

With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.

Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,

Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,

A song to fall like water on my head,

And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:

A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool

Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep

To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,

And floats forever in a moon-green pool,

Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

Elizabeth Bishop

The solace which Judith found allowed her to continue her life of incredible achievement and genorosity. She lived each day expecting little but demanding from life the civility, beauty and joy which her world could give. She gave of herself what she demanded of others.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

254

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—

That perches in the soul—

And sings the tune without the words—

And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—

And sore must be the storm—

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—

And on the strangest Sea—

Yet, never, in Extremity,

It asked a crumb—of Me.

Emily Dickinson    PoemHunter.com

Judith’s body betrayed her subtly at first, then loudly, creully, and finally vicously.

The Moment

The moment when, after many years

of hard work and a long voyage

you stand in the centre of your room,

house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,

knowing at last how you got there,

and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose

their soft arms from around you,

the birds take back their language,

the cliffs fissure and collapse,

the air moves back from you like a wave

and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.

You were a visitor, time after time

climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.

We never belonged to you.

You never found us.

It was always the other way round.

Margaret Atwood

Flying Inside Your Own Body

Your lungs fill & spread themselves,

wings of pink blood, and your bones

empty themselves and become hollow.

When you breathe in you’ll lift like a balloon

and your heart is light too & huge,

beating with pure joy, pure helium.

The sun’s white winds blow through you,

there’s nothing above you,

you see the earth now as an oval jewel,

radiant & seablue with love.

It’s only in dreams you can do this.

Waking, your heart is a shaken fist,

a fine dust clogs the air you breathe in;

the sun’s a hot copper weight pressing straight

down on the think pink rind of your skull.

It’s always the moment just before gunshot.

You try & try to rise but you cannot.

Margaret Atwood

Judith did not lose her gift of friendship, her ability to love, her acute and precious mind.

Love is Not All

Love is not all: it is not meat or drink

Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;

Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink

And rise and sink and rise and sink again

Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath,

Nor clean the blood nor set the fractured bone;

Yet many a man is making friends with death

Even as I speak for lack of love alone.

It well may be that in a difficult hour

Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,

Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,

I might be driven to sell your love for peace

Or trade the memory of this night for food.

It well may be.  I do not think I would.

  Edna Saint Vincent Millay

At the end, it was excruciating for all.

No Choice

Six foot mounds stalk the fields

of frozen grass. Shrouded disc of moon,

almost full, lights the greying snows

which have lain too long under the veil of smoke.

The steady click, click, click of rain

splinters the silence of the February night.

Breathing, I am burned by the sharp 2 am air.

Too hard, too hard, too hard: say this will not be.

The kitchen at this hour blankets me in warmth.

The flames leap and dance to cast a glow about the room.

Seated in the settee I close my eyes,

No thing remains unmoved by the swaying world within.

Too quick signals from the brain are sent, collide.

Nausea, panic, rage propel me once more through the door,

Gasping in the dimness and the cold as if rising from the sea.

Too hard, too hard, too hard: say this will not be.

Across the road, a still doe looks towards me.

Her beauty is contained briefly within the night.

Suddenly, she vaults forward in the darkened world

that consumes the graceful form as though there had never been

so beautiful a creature; an anticipation of perfection;

the fulfillment of a dream, the incentive for improvement.

The space where the doe had stood survives emptied.

Too hard, too hard, too hard, too hard.

In the absence, in the loss, there is the feeling of so much unsaid.

When We Haven’t Said Goodbye

It’s the chance we did not have,

that metered stroke of a second before we knew

you were leaving, its luminous hand

unscathed by effort in the reigning darkness

like the sand in the hourglass our fist

could not keep from seeping into the lost

and forgotten. The moment was not ours.

The moment we would not have imagined,

borrowed briefly and returned to oblivion

in the aria of chimes played

by the mantel clock on the hour,

or in the wet glimmer of a kiss that we blew

into the open space we never

would have entered, telling us it’s over,

or in the grief of leaving a single word behind

had we said goodbye in time.

Joanne Monte  PoemHunters.com

In the end, however, I mourn the loss of Judith. Driving in the car, listening to music, I see her, suddenly, years ago, smoking a cigarette, I feel a physical pain. I awake at night remembering her patience choosing cobbed corn despite the heat on a summer day, how I admired her graceful movements. I look at a photograph of a family celebration, see her smile. The tears that fall are because I will never hear that laugh again.

A friend like Judith does not enter a life too often. You are foolish if that friendship is not treasured. I have no sadness for days past that might have been. I struggle only to understand how we move ahead without her.

4 thoughts on “Remembering Judy

  1. From Friends who contacted by email:

    So sorry to hear the news. But your blog is beautiful – such a wonderful way to remember her… Love, Bev

    I remember her well—so lively and intelligent and open to life. B.

    Devastating News. She was such a beautiful person. Aoibhe

    Like

  2. There is never an easy way to say what one’s heart holds in love and memory for such a unique and special soul, -as was Judith’s. so-.your expression of loss and of one’s lasting love for her using the beautiful and lasting music of poetry- is a rich. deep,and tender tribute

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s