“She evidently had a baton in her knapsack”

Back in the fall we inducted Richard Morgan of Bowdoin College into the (temporarily dormant) Power Line 100 Best Professors in America series. When Dick passed away from cancer a few months later, we were flattered that the local Brunswick paper chose Power Line’s photo of him to use in their obituaries. We had done the “Who Reads Power Line?” segment with him quite hastily on the spur of the moment after breakfast one morning, and yet the photo turned out to be quite good.

A few days ago I had a long conversation on the phone with Dick’s widow, the equally great Jean Yarbrough, and the fact that it was such a long and wide ranging call is notable for the simple reason that I hate the telephone, and almost never have long phone calls with anyone. It wasn’t long enough, though; we resolved that we must have much longer conversations about many things, preferably in person.

Judy copyAlong the way Jean mentioned the extraordinary coincidence that Dick had passed away on the same day as the sudden death of Judy Arkes, Hadley Arkes’s wife of more than 50 years. I enjoyed their mutual company many times during my years in Washington. Hadley has posted at The Catholic Thing his touching remarks at Judy’s memorial service. “She evidently had a baton in her knapsack” is a paraphrase of line from Napoleon that Hadley rightly thinks applied to Judy’s character as revealed in her professional life.

It is very much worth your time to read the whole thing, but here’s the close:

And with that sense of things – that sense of being so grateful for what we had – I would close by recalling something she quite enjoyed. I was doing a talk here in town with the title “Gifts Without Warranties: The Children We Didn’t Exactly Order – and the Parents They Produced.” (The boys had reshaped us in turn.) I recalled the way in which we had become the custodians of each other’s biography, and in a certain prophecy I said that I couldn’t imagine what life would be like without her. And so for that reason I just recorded my gratitude for the time we had together day by day.

I recalled then some passages from Randall Jarrell in a composition called, “A Man Meets a Woman in the Street.” In this work, a man finds himself walking behind a woman on Fifth Avenue in New York. As he follows her, she evokes a chain of romantic associations. In his thoughts, he urges her to turn around and be his. But then it becomes clear that he is playing a kind of game. He approaches the woman, he touches the back of her neck – and it turns out that she is in fact his wife. They kiss, and they walk off, arm in arm, as Jarrell says, “through the sunlight that’s much too good for New York.” He concludes in this way, and with his words, so would I, for Judy and for me:

After so many changes made and joys repeated,

Our first bewildered, transcending recognition

Is pure acceptance. We can’t tell our life

From our wish. Really I began that day

Not with a man’s wish: “May this day be different,”

But with the birds’ wish: “May this day

Be the same day, the day of [our] life.”

Postscript: It turns out that Jeremy Arkes videotaped Hadley’s remarks, which you can take in here–much better than reading it: