The phone rang as I was on my way to the HCBA Bar Memorial last year. It was my mom, who as a retiree has a tendency to forget that the rest of the world (particularly the worlds of her children) is not on her schedule. I was prepared for her to be excitedly sharing a new recipe or TV show she’d recently discovered. Instead she was calling to tell me that my dad was in the hospital and not responsive. While they didn’t think he was in a coma, no one yet knew what exactly was going on.
My mom and dad live five hours away, and my father has been very clear over the years that unless there’s something we can actually do, he doesn’t want my brother or me coming home when a health scare happens. There’ve been more of these lately, as my dad’s Parkinson’s disease and dementia have continued to progress.
So I asked my mom to keep me posted, put my phone on vibrate, and walked into Thrivent Auditorium where the memorial was soon to begin. I thought I was hiding my worry pretty well until I sat down next to Fred Ojile. We had met each other briefly at VLN-HCBA-related meetings (Fred has been active in VLN for more than 25 years and recently received HCBA’s Pro Bono Publico Award for Distinguished Service); we easily got to talking. He told me about a friend he was close to who was being memorialized that day. I found myself telling him about the call I’d received. (If you know Fred, you know how this happens—he just emanates empathy.)
The Bar Memorial began. The special session of the court was called to order and the judges filed in. There was beautiful music and the names were read. We each held in our hands a memorial booklet full of stories. Written by family members and friends, these memorial stories showed how the law was one very important aspect of many full, rich lives. If you were to chart the number of people directly touched by these few dozen being honored, it easily would stretch into the thousands.
When the memorial ended and we rose from our chairs, Fred wished my father well. Each time we’ve seen each other in the year since, we greet each other warmly and he asks how my dad is doing. It means a great deal to me.
Every day we carry with us those who’ve shown us kindness, those who’ve influenced our careers and helped us become the people we are, yet we rarely stop to think about it. It’s important, even for just one morning a year, to pause and remember those we’ve loved and learned from who’ve shaped our personal lives and the life of the profession. It’s what, in the end, we all long for—to be well remembered.