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The Importance of Place

lawn I have so many things to tell you. So many. About New York's greatest face-lift and a seven hundred foot ribbon and dinner at the People's Castle. About my book which continues to grow and change every day in ways I could never have imagined. About the mild fever I can't shake and my sinister fears of swine flu. About our new home which continues to take shape.

But there is one thing I must tell you. I must tell you about my morning.

Early this morning, Husband, Mom, sundry sisters, nephews and I piled into the car and drove to the Hastings Center in Garrison, New York to attend a dedication ceremony in honor of Dad. Dad spent a good chunk of his professional career working at the Center, a preeminent bioethics research institute. It was a very important place to him. He spent many good days and good years there thinking big thoughts and butting heads with beloved colleagues and scholars. He spent many good days and years pacing a certain lawn that overlooks the Hudson.

And today, that very lawn was dedicated to Dad, named for him. It is now the Donnelley Lawn. Today the rain was ruthless. But still. Still, the lawn was picturesque and proud. Rich with invisible shards of thought and conversation. Blanketed in faded footsteps of fearlessly big thinkers. The picture above was taken many years ago. Dad is on the left. His hand rests on his left hip as it often did when he was in a thicket of deep thought. He stands with a visiting scholar. I don't know what they were talking about. But I'm sure it was something meaningful. Something that mattered.

Many years later, the lawn looks quite the same. That tree is still there, standing tall. Now there is now a bench under that tree. One of Dad's colleagues told me that Dad used to sit there, on that bench, flanked by our labs, look out at the water, and think. Dad loved to think.

Grieving is a tricky process. I'm not sure I am very good at it. Or whether it is something to be good at. I do remember that when Dad first died I said to myself, I hoped, that one day the sadness wouldn't be quite as sharp or severe or strangling. I said to myself, I hoped, that one day remembering him would feel like a celebration. I said to myself, I hoped, that one day remembering him would involve more laughs than tears.

Maybe, just maybe, that day has come. Maybe 'some day' is today.

This morning was a celebration. A tribute to the importance of person and the importance of place. A collective realization that big things, magical things, can happen when a certain person commingles with a certain place. This morning, this rain-soaked morning, was stuffed to the gills with poetic words and rich memories and true laughter.

We might not have him. But we have that lawn he loved. We have that tree he revered. We have that bench he sat on. And we have this morning.

A big thank you to Tom Murray and Harold Edgar and Bruce Jennings and David Gordon for this morning's wonderful program. For remembering Dad in this meaningful way. A big thank you to those friends and colleagues who came from near and far to celebrate a cosmic thinker. A big thank you to the rain for reminding us all that Mother Nature has her own plans and we are always at the mercy of something bigger and badder and more true.

Something Secret

Party Like A Rock Star