Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Lovely Life Well Lived

The very smart Judge I worked for for 14 years was buried yesterday. She passed away at the premature age of 62 due to the scourge of Alzheimer's.  Not only was she smart, she was a beautiful woman, inside and out, and fashionable. Every morning she would come to chambers in some beautiful outfit. I would go for months and never see the same ensemble twice.

At a good 5 foot 10, her regal carriage made me feel like the Pillsbury Dough Boy as I scuttled behind, trying to keep up with her insane schedule. She did not let the riggers of her responsibilities as a federal appellate judge keep her from being an active mother of four, grandmother, and friend. Rarely did she miss a ballgame, parent teacher conference, or a chance to babysit her adorable grandchildren, albeit with a bag of briefs with her at all times. 

Most of the folks in our town were clueless as to what she did or the position she held. All they knew was that she was some kind of judge, did not have a courtroom, travelled to Richmond a lot, but still could not fix a parking ticket. It was not until the State Paper in Columbia ran the story that she was being considered for a seat on the Supreme Court, that they pulled out their Civics books, looked at the federal judiciary, and saw that, "Oh, my goodness, she is on the court just below the Supreme Court. That's pretty important."

She always laughed that one of her high school teachers told her, even after she was on the court, that if she really tried she would have made a very good stenographer. One of the attorneys who worked for us was speechless when he ran into a townsperson who, upon learning he worked for the Judge, commented, "Oh, she has such good skin."

One morning I can remember answering the phone and having one her friends ask to speak to her. Knowing that since she was waiting for an important call from another judge and had two of her law clerks (attorneys) in her office reviewing cases, she could not politely handle a call from the lady, who I knew would go on for a while. When I told her the Judge was unavailable, she quickly explained, "You do not understand, this is about the Deb Ball this year. She is the Hospitality Chairperson and we need to discuss the seating arrangements. This is very important. Just tell her who is calling, I'm sure she'll take the call.

I put her on hold, walked into the Judge's office, explained to her the situation and asked her if she was "on the phone with another judge". She just smiled. I went back to my desk, apologized to the lady, and promised to make sure the Judge got her message as soon as she got off the phone.

But, what was lost on that lady was - I did understand. Part of my job was keeping the great balancing act going. She never held her calls. Children, grandchildren, and her husband trumped any other phone calls. It did not matter who she was on the phone with, when any of them called, we put a written note in front of her, while she was on the other call to let her know who was holding. We would then wait for her hand motions to be able to tell the family member whether to hold on or she would call them right back. Usually, she would politely end her phone, and take the one on hold.

I always knew where she was 24/7 because I had her calendar. Mind you I just "had it", I didn't "keep it", she personally did. And, her calendar was exhausting. Keeping up with her was exhausting but it was never dull. She lived her life to the fullest. She loved life, her friends, her family, and most everyone she met. She touched so many people. Her death is loss to us all. I am so grateful to have been a small part of that wonderful life of hers.

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