Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Barbara, and Dave, and whoever else should have their name remembered.
When I was a brand new trial attorney working for the Department of Justice, I had a really wonderful colleague and mentor named Barbara Johnson.
Technically we had the same job, but she’d been doing it a lot longer, and she was much better at it.
Besides sharing some good “how-to-not-get-fired-or-disbarred” advice, we used to just sit and chat in her office. Here's one of her stories, which seems more timely now, 20 years later.
One time, Barbara flew from DC to Pocatello, Idaho for an early morning court appearance. Her flights were delayed, the airline lost her luggage, and there was no way to buy "emergency court clothing" before the hearing.
A flight attendant came to the rescue. She took the wings and name tag off her uniform, went into a bathroom and changed, and lent Barbara her uniform to wear for court.
I don't know if Barbara won the case, but she got a good story out of it!
Barbara died a few years after I left the government—cancer, much too young—so you’ll forgive me for being a bit sentimental here. But you would have liked her.
Completely separate story. An old friend sent me an email:
Hey man, how’s things? Today’s the 10 year anniversary of Dave’s passing. Can’t believe he’s been gone that long. I remember when you called and just hearing the tone in your voice and knowing what had happened even before you said it.
I had two close friends in high school: John and Dave.
Dave died young. John wrote the email above.
I wouldn’t have predicted Dave’s future back then. Among the three of us, he’d been the athlete—the muscular guy who took fitness and nutrition very seriously. You wouldn’t have wanted to mess with him.
One Friday night in high school, the three of us were walking on Thayer Street in Providence, R.I. We liked going there. Record stores, fast food, people. Lots of girls.
(Lots of my weak version of: “The walk over here was the longest of my life…”)
I hadn’t mellowed yet, and this one night, I got into an argument with some other guy from some other school.
I have no idea what it was about, but I remember Dave stepped in, got me out of it with my teeth still intact.
Later, he was highly amused. He told me: “If you’re going to keep mouthing off to people like that, I’d better keep lifting weights.”
It’s funny that I remember that. It’s funny how your mind works.
I read an idea that people die three times: when their body stops working, when they’re buried, and after the last time anyone says their name.
Not today, Barbara.
Not today, Dave.
(I’m still away; we’re still in low power mode. So no “7 other things.” But if anyone is interested, I invite you to share stories, or even names in the comments.
Not today, ______.”)