Normally, my blog is a space for me to think about my research. But, today I head to the funeral of a wonderful person, David Notkin. David has had a huge impact on my academic and personal life so I’m going to make a tiny space here in remembrance, a tiny space that is dwarfed by the very large space he occupied in so many of our worlds.
When I met David I thought I had been so lucky in mentors that I didn’t need anymore. But, as David offered me his friendship I discovered that I was wrong. I can’t begin to count the number of things that David taught me about being a mentor and about being an academic and about being a colleague. There are moments when I am standing somewhere, uncertain, and I’ll hear David’s voice in my head. Sometimes his voice makes me think long and critically about something I’m doing or am pondering in a tortured way, but sometimes it is something simple. He had a way of cutting to the heart of an issue and laying it bare–often with great humor.
A few months ago, Jeremy and I were privileged to attend an event in David’s honor where I heard my own experience with David repeated over and over by so many people. Everyone spoke about how he saw the potential in people, the way he gave each one of us all of his attention in any interaction, the way he gave each one of us support and love, the way he brought his full self and humanity into every action … so that there are this army of people who felt special in his care for them. When you were talking to him, you never felt like he had a million things to do and a million things on his mind, even though his love for his family and his extremely busy and successful career means he probably did, particularly in the last few months.
Grief is one of the places where our language fails us. But, today I am trying to hold onto something a dear friend posted recently, adapted here: “May the breaking of our hearts not harden us but make us more vulnerable to love, more merciful to one another.”
Or, as his lovely wife Cathy posted, “One of the things David and I talked about is that the idea of ‘goodness’ is a quality seriously underrated in this world we live in. Please be good to each other. RIP David.”