Saturday, February 20, 2016

Justice and peace have kissed #ScaliaFuneral

Door on the Passion facade.
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died this week. His daughter went to Bryn Mawr, where I teach. I have vivid memories of some of the invective directed toward her father that boiled over when she graduated, which now seems mild in comparison to some of what I've seen on Twitter and quoted in the news.

I have to admit that my first thoughts were not about whether the President should or should not nominate a replacement (ok, yes, we elected him for a 4-year term, not 3-years and a holding action and I expect each branch to do its job).  Nor did I start dreaming about a different court and what that might mean.  What I thought about was a woman who answered the phone or the door or was pulled into the kitchen to sit and told, "Your husband is dead."  No warning.  No chance to say farewell.  Just, "you are a widow. What arrangements would you like us to make?"  Two who were once one flesh have now been cruelly sundered.

I don't need to imagine what this feels like.  Twenty-nine years ago this April, at an evening faculty meeting, the college president was pulled out by campus security officers.  Something was happening at the pool.  I took advantage of the break and grabbed my stack of exams to grade.  Suddenly she is gesturing for me to come into the hallway.  "Your husband is ill at the pool, you need to go," she said. And I walked off with the officer, leaving everything behind.  My purse.  My exams.  My breviary.

Tom died during surgery to repair a ruptured aortic aneurysm on Holy Thursday.  There was a kiss. There was a plea for help just before he lost consciousness.  There was no chance to say good-bye.  I could not even be with him when he died.  It was like hitting a brick wall, decelerating from 70mph to a full stop in a microsecond.  It was brutal.

So I'm still not contemplating Scalia's decisions as a justice, my feelings about these have not been changed by his death, nor spending much time speculating about the political pitfalls and possibilities his death presents.  Instead I'm thinking, Maureen Scalia is now a widow.  And meditating on how we are all one flesh, in the One Body.

Kindness and truth have met
Justice and peace have kissed
— Psalm 85:11 Robert Alter's translation


  1. Thank you, Michelle, for sharing all of this.

  2. Remembering. Bearing witness. Sending love.

    1. Thank you, Staśa! Those days seem so far and yet so easy to find in my heart.

  3. There's been so much commentary on Justice Scalia's death in the media, but in a couple of short paragraphs, you have given this event exquisite perspective. Thank you.

    1. I have only this experience. I saw a photo of Mrs. Scalia at the funeral and was struck again by the pain in her face...