03 December 2007

John Ackrill, R.I.P.

As I said goodbye today to a visiting scholar from Japan whom I had met for lunch, I lingered near the door and stood looking for a while at a picture which I have placed on the shelf in a large bookcase. The picture, which sits in one of those plexiglass boxes --I never took the time to get a proper frame--is of my first wife, Ruth, and John Ackrill, taken at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1997.

I don't know why I lingered, looking. The picture is there in my bookcase, always, and I hardly ever pay any attention to it. I think may have reproached myself for not looking at it more often. I did wonder if it was visible enough.

My friends know that Ruth died a year later of breast cancer. The picture was taken during a brief visit to England, for her to visit an old friend in Bury St. Edmunds.

I looked at John's image and wondered how he was doing. We hadn't been in touch for a long time. How was he?

Life I find is filled with little coincidences that seem to point to a larger meaning. Later that day a friend wrote to tell me that John Ackrill had died on November 30th, the Friday before.

I couldn't be sad, since his life was a rich and full one, and he was quite old. But words I had read earlier in the day echoed in my mind:

"In some way we want life itself, true life, untouched even by death;
yet at the same time we do not know the thing towards which we feel driven.
We cannot stop reaching out for it,
and yet we know that all we can experience or accomplish is not what we yearn for."

I promise tomorrow or the day after -- reflections and recollections.

Ruth V.K. Pakaluk and John Ackrill
Christ Church, Oxford
March 1997
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Neil Van Leeuwen said...

Beautiful post.