a.letter.saying . . . .

my dear father,

I’ve returned home from the green serenity of Bali to learn that while I was away, Tony Judt died.  The news was dispiriting, as though a lifeline had been broken.  I wonder if you may have felt it, too.  Following his lucid articles in the New York Review of Books which chronicled his year with ALS, sharing his latest book with you on Father’s Day, taking heart from his ability to work through the late stages of his illness — all this provided a sort of larger theater in which I could imagine your writing and perseverance finding a stage.  He gave me hope.  That an intellectual brilliance could still escape through the cracks of a walled-in body.  That ALS could tame his hands but not his mind.  That his days continued to turn over stones worthy of his curiosity.

Did he know, I wonder, that he was a comrade to all of us who sheltered in his light?  Probably not.  It was not his writing, exactly, that illuminated my world, but his courage in living honestly and rather boldly to the last; of thinking expansively in such cramped quarters – even when immobile, mute.  The force of inquiry, intellectual edge, personal vigor, the imperative to create – this is what inspired me about him.

And about you.  Without your even knowing, you continue to surprise and amaze me.  How your mind stretches like the blazing sun against the gathering night, reaching depth and tone and colors not seen in the noon hours of your career.  How your daily rising to the desk, early and strong, reveals a fierce force of will bent on articulating your life in the grammar of meaning.  Whether you finish your book or not is no longer the point – not for me, anyway.  The point is your living, which seems to say even without your trying, that you intend to conclude your life with the same solar power that energized it from the start.  That you care to think clearly, to edit judiciously, to act consciously, and to love generously through every diminution of your powers.  In my eyes, this is the effulgence of your days.

So, I wanted to take a moment to give thanks for the brave tenacity of Tony Judt, a comrade in the night, whose work was undoubtably unfinished but whose life was complete.  And to give thanks, as I do over and over again, for you, for the practice you keep of living deliberately, thoughtfully, and with bright resolve, which is a gift, more than any single book, that will live and grow in those who love you, forever.

Yours always,


~ by Susan on 08/23/2010.

One Response to “a.letter.saying . . . .”

  1. As a faculty member who worked with Dr. Hull as provost, I find this very moving and am grateful to have read it. I admired his formidable mind, but also his understanding of the world in general and I cherish conversations I have had with him and speeches and sermons I have heard him give. When I got back from a Boston sabbatical during the first year of his tenure as provost, I had planned to serve out my obligatory year at Samford and return to Boston. But upon hearing him speak to the faculty at opening convocation, I decided Samford had a place for me and my ideals of diversity and tolerance. So Dr. Hull has informed my entire career. I hold him in the Light.

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