Thank You, by Judith

Let me take this opportunity to thank you all (I know this is lame: blanket thanks, but I am unable emotionally and/or practically to thank everyone individually.

There have been so many kindnesses, cards (people have said such heartfelt kind things, to us, about Kirby), donations, caring, for us ever to thank everyone for every effort. We have received and absorbed and it has all helped.

The efforts people went while she was sick continue to astonish and humble me.

Since her death, they have continued.

Even though we lost the war (she’s dead) the casualties could have been much worse without all our communities.

Also, thank you to everyone who has and is giving me space and time. For all the people who have not hugged knowing I have trouble with expressions of sympathy. And I know that all kinds of kindness associated with Kirby and this awful time are going on out there in the world that I don’t know specifically of: but thank you.

And to everyone who has offered meals, lunches out, walks…thank you. If you don’t hear from me or I don’t take you up on offers please don’t feel rebuffed or unappreciated. I am treading water VERY HARD trying to keep my head up and breathe. (Including with some good advice from my sister about how to breathe.) For me this means retreat, quiet, silence, very few things scheduled, gym. We’ve been told both this is the WORST loss (of a child) and that it takes TIME (possibly, probably a lot).

Finally, thanks for the comments. (And to Becca and Kate who set up this website.) I read the comments, weep, and feel connected, being reminded of company in misery. A number of people have thanked us for sharing: let me thank all of YOU for everything you have shared.
Cards (with stamps! The struggling USPS thanks you, too)
Offers for help/contact/time/food we never took you up on
TIME given to us by busy people taking time out from their lives to be with us, help us, do things for us
Amazing creativity (all the riffs on cranes)
The happy Kirby memories people are sharing as well as the letters and notes you’re writing her (I am, too. Sharing those anecdotes about family, friends, the Hill that made her laugh. My own eccentric news: I think I have figured out two-suit spider solitaire).
Your own stories about loss, cancer (it really does help me)
The incredible respect, and indulgence, accorded us when we said “no visitors,” “visitors allowed,” “no food,” “food welcome,” “come,” “don’t come,” “sing,” “don’t sing.” Even all the people who did their best to conform to our household’s strictures about precision in language (she DIED. “Pass” is too kind for the savage reality. No GIRLS here unless they they’re under 13. If asked if you want something, “OK,” noncommittal as it is, is not acceptable. Say “yes,” “no,” “Oh yes!” “Never!” and all rest of them…_

As I muddle through my days I remember. I remember her 28 years. I remember her being sick. Dying for five months. The roller coaster. And I remember things I want to thank people for, but probably won’t.

Please accept both my thanks and apologies.

If you wonder how Owen is doing, he gave me permission to share his final reflection for the English course he took winter quarter:


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Olya
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 21:15:28

    Thank you both. For Kirby, and for being who you are. You’ve inspired me so much with your strength, your courage, and your love for Kirby…


  2. Peg
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 21:16:07

    Judith and Robert,
    Thank you thankyou thank you.

    I saw this incredible exhibition last Friday at the NGA. It’s only there til 4/29. I highly recommend it,

    March 29, 2012
    Teeming With Transcendent Life
    WASHINGTON — Have you ever felt put off by the imperturbable serenity exuded by the Buddha in countless artistic images? Maybe it is my American DNA or my underdeveloped consciousness, but I sometimes feel almost as alienated by his Teflon-like immunity to excitation as by the idealized agony of the crucified Jesus. They both seem so unnaturally abstract.
    These thoughts were crystallized for me by one of the most beautiful exhibitions I have ever seen: “Colorful Realm: Japanese Bird-and-Flower Paintings by Ito Jakuchu (1716-1800)” at the National Gallery of Art here.
    The show brings together for the first time outside of Japan two parts of a suite of paintings that Ito Jakuchu (pronounced ee-toe ja-ku-chu) made for the Shokokuji monastery in Kyoto. Created between 1757 and 1766, it consisted primarily of 30 bird-and-flower scroll paintings collectively called “Colorful Realm of Living Beings.” The series is widely and justly considered one of the supreme masterpieces of Japanese painting. To give the nature pictures a divine focus Jakuchu also produced a triptych representing the Buddha and two bodhisattvas, all luxuriously enthroned.
    In the interest of preservation the monastery donated the “Colorful Realm” paintings to the Japanese Imperial Household in 1889 but kept the triptych. Since then the complete set has been exhibited only once before, at the Jotenkaku Museum in the Shokokuji monastery in 2007.
    Organized by Yukio Lippit, a Harvard professor of Japanese art, the exhibition presents Jakuchu’s paintings on silk of flowers, birds, fish, lizards, insects and seashells. They hang unscrolled behind glass panels on the long walls of a broad rectangular room, with the triptych of deities presiding at one end. Bordered by patterned fabrics, all the paintings have the windowlike dimensions of about 5 ½ feet by 3 feet.
    It is a metaphysically pointed arrangement. The Buddha and the bodhisattvas belong to an eternal, transcendental realm that rules over earthly time and space. Implicitly the lively beings of material creation are gathered here to bask in the beneficence of their cosmic overlord. No doubt that was the program intended by Jakuchu, who retired at 40 from running a large grocery business he inherited from his father to devote himself to art and Zen.
    But now the experience of the ensemble is something else. While the nature paintings teem with life — figuratively as well as formally — the paintings of the reigning deities are so conventional and dull it is hard to believe they were made by the same artist. In fact Jakuchu copied them from a triptych attributed to a 13th-century painter, Zhang Sigong, that he discovered at Tofukuji, another monastery in Kyoto. Regardless, it clearly was not traditional theology but worldly reality that turned Jakuchu on.
    If “turned on” sounds like an anachronistic phrase to apply to an 18th-century artist, consider the paintings. Their vividness conveys a state of attentiveness and responsiveness to which ordinary consciousness, in its distraction and world-weary fatigue, rarely rises. This partly has to do with Jakuchu’s extraordinary powers of observation and painterly description. The profusion of realistic detail and the way feathers, blossoms, tree leaves and myriad other elements are deftly individualized is hypnotically gripping.
    Looking closely at “Maple Tree and Small Birds” you see that each of the hundreds of red leaves growing from arcing, gnarly branches is distinctly different. Some glow bright red, some are nearly drab green; some are opaque, some let light through. “Shells” has 146 varieties of seashells — mussel, oyster, conch, snail, starfish and many more — scattered over a sandy expanse, each described with loving exactitude. “Pond and Insects” pictures 76 species of bugs along with lizards, frogs and a coiled snake.
    Among 18 marine species all swimming down toward the left in “Fish” is a big gold sea bream whose every scale and spiny fin is neatly articulated. But that is not all: Jakuchu also captures the iridescent sheen of its fat orange-and-white body.
    The accumulation of zoological and botanical information could be exhausting were it not for another of Jakuchu’s remarkable talents: his virtuosic way with composition. Some works, like “Peonies and Small Birds,” are crammed nearly to bursting with blossoms. Others have open spaces letting in air and light.
    In “Rooster and Hen” a flamboyantly multihued male and an all-black female perform a tense mating dance on an open field of unpainted fabric, which concentrates the erotic drama. In “Wild Goose and Reeds” a single big bird plummets straight down from the sky toward a surface of cracked ice, and the background expanse of unpainted light-brown silk, framed by reeds bearing globs of melting snow, evokes airy space.
    Many of the later compositions produce a delirious confusion of gravitational orientation. In “Lotus Pond and Fish” flat, circular leaves and pink and white blossoms viewed from divergent perspectives surround a school of small, silvery fish. It makes sense at a glance; but the more you look, the harder it is to tell what is up and what is down, and the more confoundingly dreamy it becomes.
    “Chickens” has 12 roosters and a hen crowded together into a dazzling tapestry of brown, black and white plumage punctuated by bright red cockscombs and wattles and staring eyes. It is an impossible situation; you could never assemble so many cocky males and one female into such close quarters without violence breaking out. The effect is of a sly, anthropomorphic comedy.
    Jakuchu was not painting social satires or moral allegories. But especially in the later examples, images of the ostensibly natural world and its denizens become metaphorical mirrors of an irrepressibly lively mind. Nothing is fixed; all is in flux in nature as in consciousness. Up and down, inside and out, male and female, plant and animal, water and rock, unpainted silk and open air: these are provincial, merely human categories. That is why the Buddha remains so implacably calm. Ensconced on his transcendental throne, he is unruffled by the delusory problems we bipeds create for ourselves.
    There will always be artists who aspire to Buddha-like abstraction. The grid-and-stripe painter Agnes Martin did for example. But I much prefer Jakuchu’s joyful immersion in the colorful realm of living beings.
    “Colorful Realm: Japanese Bird-and-Flower Paintings by Ito Jakuchu (1716-1800)” runs through April 29 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington; (202) 737-4215,


  3. Becca
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 03:51:24


    I think of Kirby all the time, and replay my memories in my head.

    This is a poem that was read at my temple growing up- and I especially love it now, since its so true (at least for me anyway)- and a nice way to think of Kirby in this new reality.


    We Remember Them

    In the rising of the sun and its going down,
    We Remember Them.

    In the bowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
    We Remember Them.

    In the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring.
    We Remember Them.

    In the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer,
    We Remember Them.

    In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn.
    We Remember Them.

    In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
    We Remember Them.

    When we are weary and in need of strength,
    We Remember Them.

    When we are lost and sick of heart,
    We Remember Them.

    When we have joys and special celebrations we yearn to share,
    We Remember Them.

    Sp long as we live, they too shall live, for they are part of us.
    We Remember Them.

    ~From the Jewish Book Of Prayer~


    • kirbysc
      Apr 08, 2012 @ 13:15:57

      Thank you for remembering this poem on remembering. I think they read it at Temple Micah usually as part of the Yiskor service on Yom Kippur.


  4. Yael
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 21:29:31

    Owen, your video is incredible. Thank you for allowing it to be shared with us.

    Thinking about you all and Kirby tonight–if it wasn’t for Passover and the Smith Haggadah, I might never have gotten to know Kirby. Judith, thank you so much for sharing your haggadot with me. I never grabbed a hard copy of the Smith one.

    So much love,



  5. Nancy Friedman
    Apr 08, 2012 @ 22:18:29

    At our seder on Friday night someone was proclaiming a miracle, the product of prayer and/or positive energy, on behalf of a member of our community who has been dangerously ill and is now showing surprising signs of recovery. I said, “No, no, no,” and (with no ill will toward our acquaintance here) I thought that if ever this universe could squeeze out a miracle, it would have happened for Kirby, who was surrounded by such a loving family and community, so much prayer, and boundless positive energy. Powerless though we may be in the face of the forces of the universe, Judith, Robert, and Owen, you are in our thoughts at this holiday season (and always, really). With love, Nancy


  6. erin*joy
    Apr 09, 2012 @ 16:24:13

    Thank you… thank you…
    Zissen Pesach…
    And Blessings, always.

    Will be in Maryland/DC in about a month. Hope to see you, if it works out. Another trip, if it doesn’t.




  7. Jean
    Apr 09, 2012 @ 20:25:08

    Owen, thank you for sharing the healing power of words. Your reflection is a gift to us all.


  8. sarahcamionalexander
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 01:57:45

    Judith and Robert,
    I’ve been by Eastern Market several times the last few months, and each crab cake makes me think of you both and hope you are healing.
    I watched Owen’s video and really admire him for how he is working through his grief. I remember I felt the same way after I was sick, feeling that life is too short to waste it on things that seem not to matter.
    English was never my strong suit, I still remembering you telling me “hopefully” was not a word…I read in the Post they are adding it to the dictionary and thought of you. Everything I try and write in this post sounds a bit trite, as things tend to when skirting around the topic of death and grief. But Owen’s right, writing is essential to communication – and he could not have a better example of that than this blog. The openess and honesty you both have shared during this whole period has been heart wrenchingly inspirational.
    Wouter and I think of you both often, please let me know if you’re ever in the mood for a crabcake.


  9. morgan
    May 06, 2012 @ 01:14:19


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