Under Analysis- You might as well ride your motorcycle

   I refuse to think of myself as anything other than young.  I drive a motorcycle and convertibles and I claim neither has anything to do with a mid-life crisis.  Nevertheless, every once in a while reality comes splashing in, even if only for a short time until I dry myself off.
   This week I went to the funeral of a lawyer’s wife.  Mary was the administrative assistant to the Chairman of the County Council when I worked on the development agreement and zoning for the new casino in town.  She was very good at her job, always pleasant and helpful to everyone.  I had known Mary for a long time.  I remember a party at her house where she supported her husband, Gerry, who was president of the local bar association.  They had the whole governing Board over for a party.
   It had been a tough two years for the family.  Gerry watched the woman he’d married over 40 years ago deteriorate from Alzheimer’s and cancer.  I frequently saw him at the athletic club, where we both work out, and where he once served as president.  It was obvious the vibrant, sharp-witted lawyer I’d known for so long was carrying a lot of weight.
   Gerry was president of other things too, including the trial lawyers and many charities.  In addition, in a very memorable campaign, he ran for the U.S. Senate.  The campaign was memorable because after he lost, he sent me a check for the unspent portion of my contribution.  No politician has ever done that before, or since.
   Several things at Mary’s funeral made an impression on me.  Even though Gerry spent his life in silk stocking law firms, many well respected plaintiff lawyers were at the funeral as well.  There were also a lot of past Bar presidents, and representatives from the many charities Gerry has been involved in through the years.  People from all walks of life were there to honor Mary and to support Gerry, a lawyer with extraordinary legal skills, who used a portion of his and Mary’s life together to do good in our community.
   Their oldest daughter gave the eulogy.  It was plain to see she came from strong oratory stock as she described the happy life of her mother raised in a Catholic family with nine siblings, of the strength that heritage brought to her new family, of her mother’s loving partnership with Gerry, and of the family’s current loss.  At the visitation, Gerry told me, “Mary was always there for me, which made it very easy for me to be there for her these past years.”
   Too often, the public face we see of lawyers in America belong to the television advertisers who generally portray the profession poorly.  Gerry and lawyers like him all over the country represent a different, quieter public face in our country.  At times lawyering can be a very stressful job that wears on us and our families, but it is a job that is almost always of vital importance to our clients.  We are rewarded well for what we do, and deserve to enjoy the fruits of our work.  Relaxing and playing at whatever we like to do takes some of the strain away and that’s important.  Many of us, however, do a little extra.
   Even though I feel like I’m seventeen, at times – like this week – I’m reminded that life passes pretty quickly.  Fortunately, there are these among us that seem to make the most of life through their devotion to family and a life of service to others.  It’s more than rewarding to be able to give something back.  It’s a blessing.  In some ways doing things for others can relieve as much stress as playing or relaxing.  Everybody wins.
   Although my dad died last year, and some of my close lawyer friends’ parents have died recently, having a friend’s spouse die is more sobering.  Maybe we’re not quite as young as we use to be, but that’s not going to keep me from riding my motorcycle to the next board meeting.

©2010 Under Analysis LLC Mark Levison is a member of the law firm Lathrop & Gage LLP.  You can reach Under Analysis LLC in care of this paper or by e-mail at comments@levisongroup.com.

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