Love and Squalor

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This was a very tough weekend for me. It was the memorial service for Lee and Judy, and as wonderful it was to hear stories about the two of them, I don’t seem to feel any comfort from my deep sense of personal loss and grief. I find myself thinking of them as much as I did before, only the hurt became more acute as I sat there, listening to how wonderful they were, learning how much they had touched other people as well. It did change my perspective in some ways… I realize that as great a loss as this has been for me, it has been even more so for those who have known Lee and Judy for a long period of time. For me, it is like the loss of a potential life that I was going to have, and only got to briefly taste… for those that knew them for a long time it is the loss of a lifestyle.

The stories of Judy and Lee were fantastic. I could have listened to everyone’s testimonials over and over again. I was especially moved by the words about Judy. Her sister was there, and really gave amazing insights into Judy’s life. Judy was always very caring and motherly. This, it turns out, was in spite of her difficult upbringing. She was raised by a single mother and was the oldest of the three children. Her mother always expected Judy, the oldest, to take care of the kids, and to sacrifice every time. She rarely got to spend time with her mother, rarely got to hold hands with her mother, because, as the oldest, she had to sacrifice so the little ones could hold their mother’s hand. Her mother died at an early age, and Judy became the mother figure. Not once did she complain, not once did she cry about her suffering. She took on this burden with a grace and duty, and persevered to become the wonderful radiant woman that she was. I believe this experience, this suffering, turned her into one of the most compassionate people I have ever known, thinking of others and putting them before herself. And, as another friend so eloquently spoke, it could be downright annoying!. A friend of Judy’s came to town and they planned to go to dinner. She suggested a Thai place, which the out of town guests thought was a great idea. Then over and over, again and again, Judy would ask, “is that alright with you?” “if you want to go somewhere else, that’s OK?” “Are you sure that is what you want, because we can go somewhere else if you would rather go there.” The funny thing was, she was so concerned that her guests got what they wanted, that they were getting annoyed, and ultimately yelled “Judy, lets just go. WE’RE STARVING!” It reminded my of our playdate how she was constantly texting us to make sure we were OK with everything and that we knew our daughters were OK, then apologizing several times when they went to bed a little on the late side. I had to laugh, recognizing Judy precisely from his comments.

I think my favorite story about Lee and Judy, though, was about Esmé’s first steps. Lee and Judy and just arrived somewhere from out of town, and when they got back, realized they only had a few diapers left. So, late at night, when most places were closed, she asked Lee to go get more diapers. Lee obliged (I am sure rolling his eyes!), and off he went. In the meantime, Judy was spending time with Esmé, who was just starting to stand. Judy held out her hands, and encouraged her daughter to come, and Esmé took her first steps. Judy was beaming. Nearly crying with joy, said a few things about how wonderful it was, and then, with a sudden gasp of guilt, thought about Lee, who she had sent on the less glorious task of buying diapers. They made a pact not ever to tell Lee. When he came back they didn’t say a word, but encouraged Lee to try to get Esmé to walk. Lee encouraged his daughter, with some difficulty, to walk again. When she finally did, Lee exploded with joy, yelling “Mark the time! Mark the time!” and posted it all over Facebook, and emailed his friends the time of Esmé’s “first steps.” They kept this secret from him until the end. I imagine Lee, listening from heaven to the ceremony, hearing this and laughing out loud with a huge beaming smile.

“DUDE!” he would have said.

I had always thought Esmé was a beautiful name, and it was pointed out that this was from a JD Salinger story. It turns out to be from a short story, published first in the New Yorker in 1950. It is called:

“For Esmé- with love and squalor”

It is an eerily appropriate story for Esmé, and a wonderful read.


Judy and Lee were great friends, great people. The world is a less wonderful place. We will miss you. You have touched so many.

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