The maple tree outside my window is nothing short of stunning — especially with a blue-sky backdrop, warm autumn breezes, and intense sun rays brilliantly illuminating leaves — as if its branches suddenly had sprung fiery, fluttering feathers.
My mood is somewhere between thoughtfulness and thanks, melancholy and marvel. The death of RBG (whom I admired even more than I realized) and the concurrent visit of our 9-month-old grandson (whom I had not touched since he was 3 months old) put me in a state of gratefulness. Considering the beauty of a life lived well to its very last minute while enjoying a baby’s awareness of (and wide-eyed openness to) every sight, sound, and touch makes my heart sing.
I understand it’s tempting only to grieve what’s lost to America with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but I want to think about 13-year-old RBG, (1946?) already prescient about the world, writing for her eighth–grade school newspaper that in addition to “the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta, the 1689 Bill of Rights, and the American Declaration of Independence,” the world now had a “fifth great document, the Charter of the United Nations.” She went on to explain how that newest document was of utmost importance “to secure the world against future wars and maintain an everlasting peace.”
I want to think about her not being able to give her high school valedictory address because her mother died of cancer the day before and then wonder how a young woman, so intellectually gifted but so marked by death, did not become cynical but always sought to better the world around her. (Her only sister died of meningitis when RBG was a toddler and her parents never got over it.) I want to think of the great love she and her husband had for each other other — the way she kept up with a toddler and demands of her own second year of law school, at the same time getting him through testicular cancer and his last year of law school — and the enthusiastic way they always embraced people around them, no matter political differences. I want to think of the kick she had appearing in an opera just a few years back. I want to think of her never-flagging work ethic.
What I want to think of most of all is how she kept her dignity while living life meaningfully and having a whole lot of fun.
Yes, the complete lack of integrity of Republican senators rankles. They, who in 2016 so blithely asserted their objections to election year SCOTUS confirmations, now chortle with glee at doing much worse in 2020, since absentee and early voting have begun. (Note to young people: Don’t vote for lying cheaters.) But that’s for another day.
I wish RBG could have lived on sharing her wisdom. Of course, I also wish every baby could grow to adulthood, as she did, excitedly open to the world, embracing possibility, accepting hard work, and not getting mired in regret. Heavens, I wish the glorious leaves of the maple wouldn’t blow away in the next wind.
Not possible. Still, on this day, I’m grateful to celebrate the best of what being human means.
A writer and retired columnist from Fargo, North Dakota, Jane Ahlin also taught English at Minnesota State University Moorhead for many years.
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