It must be Barilla lasagne day. Never mind that temperatures will most likely hit the high 90s, I will be baking my vegetarian offering for a friend who unexpectedly lost her husband last week. The shock of this loss still gnaws at my consciousness, and don’t ask me why but cooking helps. One night Henry was fine, just a little indigestion, and the next morning he was gone, dying peacefully in his sleep. He was my age.
His wife, because I just cannot call her a widow yet, my friend Tammy is a member of the Ivy Farms Book Club. She is also a brilliant lawyer, a loving mother, a friend and much more. She was my neighbor when we first moved to Cville, welcoming this Yankee with open arms. We shared a love of big, white polar bear-type dogs! I’ve often said I could live in Tammy’s kitchen, it is a warm Tuscan cave of a room, with long windows at one end and a round, welcoming table in the center. Many a night we women would sit and discuss books, and everything else under the moon, with a kind of truth and candor one rarely expects.
All of my readers from the old Rumson Book Club know what I mean.
Our husbands were always in the periphery. Some would show up towards the end of our evenings, and some didn’t. If Henry was in town, he would show up. His hugs were real, not the fake, half in/half out type. He was the kind of gentle man who had a spark, who could make you think you were the only two people in a large gathering. His laughter was contagious. He was an international lawyer, who traveled extensively to poorer countries all over the world as an advocate for the poor and disenfranchised. If lawyers had a “Doctors Without Borders” association, he would be its director. If big companies were exploiting their workers anywhere on the planet, Henry was there. To Tammy, he was her Prince.
One of his colleagues, Mark Sparks, wrote an exceptional tribute to Henry:
Today we lost a wonderful friend of mine–Henry Dahl. Henry was one of the kindest, humblest, most intelligent lawyers I’ve ever known. Henry, I didn’t even know you spoke Russian (your sixth language) until we ran into Miss Russia at the Miss Universe pageant in Quito—you made her laugh and I never asked why. Henry, I didn’t know you were President of the Inter-American Bar Association until I happened upon it online—you never boasted about it once. Henry, I didn’t know you played tennis until we started for the first time in northern Nicaragua—at some desolate place most people wouldn’t even consider visiting. What I do know, Henry, is that armed with your keen mind and my ability to claim credit for that brilliance, we traveled for years throughout Central America working on foreign cases together. There, you did what you did best–used your intelligence and kindness to try and make this world a better place for those who need it most. We emailed each other yesterday, and I should have told you how much better I was for knowing you. I didn’t. Henry, I am so much better for knowing you—and this world needs more of you, not less.
Yes, the world needs more of Henry’s kindness and compassion, his fighting spirit. And we are all better for knowing him, and for our community of women friends. Tammy’s daughter is currently applying to medical school. The Bride had given her a tour of the UVA Med School while she was in high school, before she went off to Dartmouth. It would only be right if Olivia followed in the Bride’s footsteps, choosing Emergency Medicine as a means to help the most marginalized among us.
This circle of friends is our constant harbor.
And today is my day to deliver a hug, along with two pans of lasagne. It is a small thing, but I believe food feeds the soul. And I know I need to work on finding a great recipe for Argentinian empanadas, the soul food of his culture. Rest in Peace Henry.