The last time I saw Judge Gerry Esposito he was presiding in Juvenile Court in Torrington, a hard-scrabble, hard-luck city in the Northern part of Connecticut.
"What are you doing here?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye. I rarely appear in juvenile court.
"It's a sex case, judge," I said.
The judge's good sense prevailed and the client was spared a criminal record as a result of the judge's wisdom in brokering a plea. I regretted that, in a way. Time spent with Judge Esposito is always time well spent. I would have enjoyed trying a case with him on the bench.
"I'll catch you on the next one," I said, seeing him in the hall on the way out of court.
There will be no next one. Gerry Esposito died the other day. I just learned of it now.
He seemed to be the picture of health. In his late 50s, he was trim, filled with energy and a positive attitude. A former prosecutor, the man managed to fill tough roles without creating enemies. He had a gift for putting people at ease.
His death does not shock. He lingered on death's door for a spell. Not long ago, he went out for a jog. Later in the day, he collapsed. I am told it was a massive coronary: the trauma destroyed those parts of him that permitted him to express his love and generosity. A few days ago, he was removed from life support. It would have taken a miracle to restore him, and no miracle came.
His wake will be tomorrow night and I expect lawyers and judges from around the state to come to share memories of a good man gone too soon. I'd like to believe there was a larger rhythm accounting for his death, that somehow there was a plan that yielded a happy, or even a meaningful ending. But I know better.
Gerry Esposito's coffin will be silent tomorrow, and that is hard to imagine. As those of us who came to love him pay him our respect and show our love, there will be the shuffling sorts of noise grief-struck people make when the gods strike. I want to go to this wake and look at the man one last time. I want to go and thank him for his genoristy, his kindness and his ability to find the good even in the most terrible of places, a court.
I know he can't hear me now, at least I believe that. But I want him to know that despite the roles we adopted in our professional lives, I always looked at him with admiration and a sort of envy. He had the sort of way about him that made other comfortable. Thank you, Gerry. Thank you, and, somehow, farewell.