Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Passing of Days

Lord, we offer thanks and praise
for the circle of our days
Praise for radiant brother sun,
who makes the hours around us run
For brother sleep, and sister death,
who tend the borders of our breath
Be with us, Lord and guide our ways
around the circle of our days

I learned yesterday of the passing of two people important in my life, Frank Walwer and Mary Daly.

Frank was Dean of the law school where I teach at an important time in its history, and at an important time in mine. I was a young teacher and scholar, and a little unsure of my abilities. He asked me to be his Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and I was certainly unsure about that. But in the years I worked for him, I got unfailing support and daily appreciation. He often pushed me beyond the bounds of my comfort level – on one memorable occasion telling me I didn’t need to make a presentation at an important meeting of the American Bar Association committee looking to accredit the law school, and then casually saying in his opening remarks that I would be presenting on a host of issues! I didn’t exactly appreciate it at the time, but when I pulled it off, as he knew I would, my confidence soared!

He was funny and infuriating and charming, and helped me to see myself in a new way – as a competent and confident professional. I thank him for that.

Frank died in a car accident on New Year’s Day (no one who had ever ridden with him was surprised by the manner of his passing!). He was 79.

Mary Daly was a radical feminist and theologian, and I only knew her from her writings. I did not always agree with what she wrote, but she opened my mind to ask questions I’d never thought of before. My version of feminism up to that point had been basic “same-as” feminism – women are the same as men, and so should have the same rights and privileges as men. Until reading Mary Daly, I never thought to ask how it was that men had become the ones that women had to prove they were like to get the rights and privileges men got by virtue of birth.

Daly was intelligent and extreme and insightful, and helped me to see the world in a new way. I thank her for that.

Mary Daly died Sunday after lingering poor health. She was 81.

I’m not sure what Frank would have thought about being eulogized here together with Mary Daly (and who knows what Mary Daly would have thought about being eulogized with Frank!). I don’t think Frank would have called himself a feminist, but he was. He loved working with women, but not in that condescending patting-on-the-head way of some. He was proud of his role in the racial integration of Columbia Law School, where he served as Dean of Admissions. He was always proud of my accomplishments, and that meant the world to me.

You know, the more I think about it, I think Frank is likely having a great conversation with Mary Daly right now, probably driving her crazy and loving every minute of it!


Wendy said...

I am sorry to hear about your friends' passings. What a nice way to remember them and the influence they had on you.

The Gang's Momma! said...

I too am sorry for your loss. And this is a lovely, heartfelt way of memorializing them. It's obvious that you are very fond of the both of them from the loving way you wrote of them.