Campus Community Memorial
September 23, 2002
By Robert M. Berdahl
University of California, Berkeley
Today we set aside some time to remember our colleagues in the Cal community who have died in the past year. Many people were taken from us. These include emeriti and retirees, staff, faculty, undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs. No part of our community remains untouched.
As the new academic year starts up and we plunge into our daily activities, it is important that we don't go on as if this loss is unfelt. Because we do feel and we will feel this loss.
Everyone has a different way of grieving. We follow many spiritual and religious traditions. And there is no one way or one time at which we will say, there, the act of grieving is done. We have mourned many of these people as individuals. Today we mourn them as a community.
It is important not how we fill this void of our loss, but how we feel it -- how we let it touch us though it hurts. We come together as a community today to acknowledge this pain.
Today is not about the honors gained in life, though they be many for our friends and colleagues at Cal. Accomplishments, years of service, professional achievements, duties well done and burdens well shouldered. For these shoulders at our side through the years we are thankful.
But today is about relationships. We are here as friends and family of the deceased, to remember our times together, and to take joy in these memories.
Take for example one of our great anthropologists -- John Desmond Clark -- who passed from us this year, on February 14th, Valentine's Day. And his wife of 64 years, Betty Baume Clark, who survived him by only two months.
We could talk about the hundreds of tributes the campus has received on John's behalf from all over the world. From international leaders and important people. But I will read only one, from his granddaughter:
"I have read with great interest and sadness about the enormous impression that my grandfather appears to have left on so many people's lives. It is of course, I believe, in a mainly professional capacity that many of his colleagues and students/ex-students will miss him."
"However, I will miss him as a grandfather, both to me, and latterly as a great-grandfather to my daughter Victoria, with whom he . . . had a joyful relationship. He was certainly looking forward to being able to see us on a regular basis (as he had recently decided to move closer) . . . . Sadly this was never to be . . . ."
"Grandpapa, you will be missed by all of your family in one way or another. I hope you are meeting old friends, family, especially your mother and brother, and having a wild time -- with just the right amount of whiskey and good cigars."
We could wish no more for our friends than that they could be with other old friends and family they fondly recall -- with or without whiskey and cigars.
In a few minutes we will pay honor to our departed friends with the reading of their names. The names appear there in our memorial stand.
We do not include alumni in our list today, as we are not sure we would know all of them to honor, the Cal community is so vast. But we also think of them at this time.
In honor of all we remember today, I will read, share one piece of literature with you.
Professor Charles Altieri teaches English 45c on campus. Readings include "the poetry of lament." One piece he teaches is Alfred Lord Tennyson's "In Memoriam." This extensive work includes the famous lyrics " 'Tis better to have loved and lost/ Than never to have loved at all."
Altieri says "In Memoriam is a great elegy because it tries to establish a response to public grief in workable private terms." It extends "private grieving over time (so) that it becomes something like another fact in the world just as the associations of door and hand (and other concrete symbols) become almost public in their repetitions."
Today, to commemorate our public grieving, I read from "In Memoriam, LXV". Here the narrator is on the threshold of death and speaks to his friend about the dying experience. At first the narrator's voice is mournful and describes the "painful phases" of death and says "sweet soul, do with me as thou wilt." There is a sense of loss, over the impending end of his own life as well as the severing of the friend relationship.
But then, out of the pain, the dying narrator has sudden insight. He says:
"Till out of painful phases wrought,
There flutters up a happy thought,
Self-balanced on a lightsome wing:
Since we deserved the name of friends,
And thine effect so lives in me,
A part of mine may live in thee,
And move thee on to noble ends."
A part of each person we remember today lives on in us. May the memory of our friends inspire us and continue to move us on to noble ends in the Cal community. Thank you for being here today. It means a lot that we can all be together.