I stood yesterday outside the office of my literature professor and academic advisor, Dr. Bonnie Libby, peering through the window. Dr. Libby passed away unexpectedly over the weekend, we think because of a blood clot. Her office sits just as she left it.
Another literature professor walked through the academic suite while I stood there.
“What are you doing?” he asked me and two boys who examined a sign-up sheet still adhered to the door.
I didn’t know what to say. I was just, you know, looking through the window and noting the tea table, the porcelain pot and the cups Dr. Libby shared with us, the books, the prayer map on the filing cabinet. Just looking, just trying to remember. What was that funny quotation by Flaubert she kept on her desk? It escaped me, and I couldn’t spy it through the glass. I left, tongue-tied.
The crumbling morale of the student body yesterday owed partly to Dr. Libby’s death and partly to the election results. At these kinds of news the strength goes out of our arms. This morning in the chilly chapel we felt the heavy weather in our chests and craniums. We weren’t sure what to say.
So we stood and sang, as is our custom: “Did ere such love and sorrow meet?” While bad news confronted the strident happiness of our youth, we remembered all over again that in a world invaded by death, sorrow and love will always flow down the same Cross.
In physics class Dr. Kucks told us frankly that because of this election he feels like a stranger in his own country. The die is cast, he said, and it’s cast against what we think is right.
I took the two sadnesses and weighed them in my hands. We lose Dr. Libby, one of our own, to a kingdom we pursue as citizens, while the kingdom around us crumbles. Shouldn’t we feel like strangers, living where death intrudes?
Dr. Libby’s candor and kindness helped draw me to this college. Her forbearance allowed for perhaps a few too many of my passionate in-class orations, which she always registered in her deep, smiling face, saying, “Hmmm.” The life in her eyes often made me pause while listening to her teach. She is so beautiful, I would think.
After building up enough angst last spring, I wrote a small book in one night. I stormed into her office the next morning, gasping, “Dr. Libby! I wrote a book last night!”
I handed it off to her in a sacred manila envelope. She read, and met its contents, as she always met me, with a deep smile.
A few weeks before Dr. Libby’s death we shared a cup of tea. I carried with me to her office a fat three-ring binder full of the independent writing I had done in the last year or so.
I am so sorry she will not see what becomes of it. I am so glad I press toward heaven, the place she now inhabits.