Margaret Walker – Judson Memorial 10.29.2011

I don’t remember how Sally and I met. Sometimes it’s nice not to remember how you met a friend, because it speaks of long acquaintance. In this case, though, it is painful not to be able to remember. Remembering things about people is a way of holding on to them, keeping them in place, and then it matters painfully when that place is suddenly empty.

I miss Sally, and here’s a funny thing: Sally and I used to have some very aggravating conversations. It happened quite a lot. We’d start talking about an issue, or more often a particular person or that person’s views, and we would disagree about something. We would keep talking, but the more we talked the more we’d disagree. It was like trying to untie a knot and finding that the knot is getting tighter. I always found this upsetting, although Sally didn’t seem upset by these conversations. So here’s the funny thing: as soon as I learned of Sally’s death, I would have given anything to have another one of those knotty conversations.

Because suddenly they seemed to represent something at the core about Sally, at least as I knew her. I would call it tenacity. Sally was always digging in deeper, and there was a cheerfulness in this relentless digging – like the cheerfulness she talks about in her work on maternal thinking – that belongs to people who care so deeply about some things that what is exhausting or appears repetitious or even futile to others is just what they are willing to do, and keep doing. It’s the part of mothering practice where things always end up spilled again, or of working for peace when violence never stops. I can’t yet put into words how this quality of Sally herself suddenly seemed completely of a piece with all of her work, and her work seemed suddenly, stunningly, a single act of tenacious caring for what mattered to her.

I miss Sally.