Historian, author, and teacher Tony Judt died a week ago. On July 15, less than a month before his death, he published an essay titled Words in the New York Review of Books. Words were Judt’s lifeblood, his “thing.” He was an intellectual — language his currency,  and he was a wealthy man. He knew the power of words, both to bridge distances and to fend off intimacy, to enlighten and to deceive. He wrote about the political and cultural dangers when words lose their integrity, and about his personal dread of words losing their speaker, their originator, which is to say, when in the final stages of ALS he would lose his world of words.

This is the beginning of my mother’s journey. Words are the first to go. Actually, they haven’t gone. They’re still there, in her head, on her unmoving tongue, unable to be released to dance in the space between us.  Silence is now filled with hand gestures and scribbled notes. At the doctor’s office or when friends stop by, I play interpreter.  Looking for ways to articulate all she needs, and all I want, to say.

~ by Stephanie on 08/15/2010.

One Response to “articulacy:language’s.substitute?”

  1. Wow. I did not realize that Tony had died. I have read his pieces in The New York Review of Books for a long time. What an amazing person. I am sorry to hear of your mother’s loss of words — I can’t imagine how difficult it all must be. The way you are coping and writing about these things is incredible — beautiful and heartbreaking and clear and true. Blessings to you —

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