RIP Judy Popkin

Last week we gathered to remember Judy and this morning we mark the actual anniversary of her death … 11 years ago.  As people readied for the annual Canterbury Fair, a hearse arrived at our house on July 31, 1999.

The morning, this year, couldn’t be more different – crystal clear, bright, dry – almost with a September chill to the air.

Eleven years ago it was humid and hot … the air heavy with loss and the hard, hard work of Judy’s dying and death.

The photo  is of Judy at the lake in August of 1997.  Twilight.  She is looking to the west … our gentle yellow lab Woody is there on the porch with her.  You can just barely see him in the lower left-hand corner of the photo.  That’s how he was – a quiet, gentle presence.  A moment, frozen in time.

And here is a poem by Linda Pastan that we have read, these many years, as one of the ways of marking Judy’s passing …. and the long work of grief.

We light the Yarzheit candle and think of you, Jude … we remember!

The Five Stages of Grief

The night I lost you

someone pointed me towards

the Five Stages of Grief

Go that way, they said,

it’s easy, like learning to climb

stairs after the amputation.

And so I climbed.

Denial was first.

I sat down at breakfast

carefully setting the table

for two. I passed you the toast—

you sat there. I passed

you the paper—you hid

behind it.

Anger seemed so familiar.

I burned the toast, snatched

the paper and read the headlines myself.

But they mentioned your departure,

and so I moved on to

Bargaining. What could I exchange

for you? The silence

after storms? My typing fingers?

Before I could decide, Depression

came puffing up, a poor relation

its suitcase tied together

with string. In the suitcase

were bandages for the eyes

and bottles sleep. I slid

all the way down the stairs

feeling nothing.

And all the time Hope

flashed on and off

in detective neon.

Hope was a signpost pointing

straight in the air.

Hope was my uncle’s middle name,

he died of it.

After a year I am still climbing, though my feet slip

on your stone face.

The treeline

has long since disappeared;

green is a color

I have forgotten.

But now I see what I am climbing

towards: Acceptance

written in capital letters,

a special headline:


its name is in lights.

I struggle on,

waving and shouting.

Below, my whole life spreads its surf,

all the landscapes I’ve ever known

or dreamed of. Below

a fish jumps: the pulse

in your neck.

Acceptance. I finally

reach it.

But something is wrong.

Grief is a circular staircse.

I have lost you.

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4 Responses to RIP Judy Popkin

  1. Audrey – I was thinking of you and your Dad … your family … this morning when I went out for a brief run. I am so very sorry … and agree that the Canterbury Fair will always be a marker, in my heart … thinking of both of them!


  2. audrey knapp says:

    thinking of you and sending my love to all of the wonderful Paxton Hill crew. Judy was remarkable and i am blessed to have known her. Canterbury Fair day will forever be marked by her memory and now, the memory of my dad, two special individuals who truly made the world a better place.


  3. Karen says:

    How succinct, Jord. Well chosen for this remarkable day.


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