Many years ago, a colleague of mine started a gruesome game, he called it death bingo. At the beginning of each year, he’d invite folks to submit names into a pool. At year’s end, the person who forecast the most deaths won.
I never played the game. It struck me as morbid. Who’d want to win such a game?
The game, it appears, has caught up to me. One after another colleagues and friends die. I suppose it goes with the turf. None of us gets out of here alive. Just why I thought I or those about whom I care were immune from the inevitable says something about the blinding narcolepsy of hope.
So I note, with sorrow, the death of Hubert J. Santos, a man known as “Hubie” to those familiar with the criminal courts of Connecticut. His partner announced the death moments ago.
Hubie was a mountain of a man, his office a museum of political memorabilia. He was gentle in his wry humor, and devastating with his disarming style of cross examination. For five decades, he graced Connecticut courts. Now, suddenly, he is silent.
Can it be?
In recent weeks two long-time judges in Connecticut passed, Roland Fasano, a man with a twinkle in his eye who never was too busy for an amusing anecdote, and Richard Arnold, a stern man, and former politico, who presided with a businesslike sense of doing the people’s business. And just before they died, F. Lee Bailey, a legend in American law, died, too.
None were young, so their deaths only shock in the saddening way that comes of realizing, suddenly, that you will never again see them. Familiar forms disappear, but the world remains, swirling forever with urgency. Where are the anchors on which we relied? Where the shelter of the ancient oak? The world becomes a barren desert.
I learned today a good friend struggles with cancer; I could hear the fear in his voice as we talked about how best to rally such resources as we have for a fight that can only be won one round at a time. In the end, death wins: always.
“Death,” Homer once wrote, “submits to no one.”
Must we yield to it?
In the end, alas, yes. These metronomic reminders of mortality beat a horrid tune just now. One, two, three, four, think of those you’ll see no more.
Summoning courage isn’t so much a virtue as a grim necessity.
I didn’t know Hubie well. I suspect I was too rough around the edges, too vain, too immodest to suit him. Yet he was gracious enough on those occasions on which our paths crossed. I grieve for those who grieve for him, and salute a man courageous enough to walk into the well of a court and fight like a gentle, well-bred lion for his clients.
So long, Hubie.
We’re not long behind, we long in the tooth. But while still with teeth we can snarl at death and defy despair.
The struggle, it seems, is all there is.