Joan Didion penned an achingly personal remembrance of her days and nights following the death of her husband, sudden, and leaving her, a wife of many years, a woman separated from all but the basics of life.
She wore surgeon’s “scrubs” for months after he died and did not differentiate her meals, drinking only thin Chinese soup. Grief kidnapped her appetite, but gave her a book to write. It later became a play, moving theater audiences.
When Joyce Carol Oates’ husband died after a hospitalization for pneumonia, she wrote of grief leaving her scattered and forgetful. The literary world embraced her honesty and her journal of aloneness until learning she had remarried before the book was published.
But it is journalist, writing teacher and grieving father Roger Rosenblatt whose “black river of loss” I have followed as he mourned. His daughter, a physician and mother of three children, died in her 30s on a treadmill. Rosenblatt, who moved to Virginia with his wife to help care for his grandchildren after his daughter’s death, has written two books, spare and wrenching, on grief that began as bitterness toward God and, after three years, became a definition from a healing father.
“Grief: The state of mind brought about when love having lost to death, learns to breathe beside it.”
Grief has been sharing space with tributes to Otis A. Brumby Jr. this past week. From those who knew and respected his contributions to this community, we have been reminded of his generosity, his life of active citizenship and his intentionality as protector of the public trust. He championed public schools, prudent governing and kept his eye on the future of journalism, embracing online readership and shoring up the economic engines in this place he called home.
Otis was a husband, father and grandfather who paid close attention to those he loved. I once heard him recite all of the quarterback’s winning calls from a football skirmish in which his son played. After discovering the treasure hunt of visiting a local antiques market, he reveled in sharing that monthly adventure with his daughters. And for months, he refused pain medication as his cancer worsened so he could be alert to share stories from his day at the newspaper with the love of his life, his wife, Martha Lee.
In his highly respected career as a journalist, his right arm was his newspaper family. The lord of tenure among the staff is Associate Editor Bill Kinney, writing for the newspaper “since Oglethorpe,” Editorial Page editor Joe Kirby says with affection.
With Otis, the three compiled an “Around Town” column, a condensed version of behind the scenes reporting, revelations from Cobb County and points north and south. It remains our guide through political foibles, successes and the growing pains of the body politic.
From managing editor, the talented Billy Mitchell, to the photographer at the Friday night game, the newspaper family grieves, having lost the man in the corner office who fought the good fight for his readers.
Otis Brumby, who confessed he had ink in his veins, leaves a legacy in print, a daily newspaper pledging to stand for the greater good through the power and empathy of the pen, which he proved is mightier than the sword.
It is presumptuous to think we know the sensibilities of those assuming new leadership roles, but it is a given that Otis’ son, Otis Brumby III, also known as “O,” and daughter Lee Garrett will gather their loyal staff in the newsroom to thank them for their good work.
“Dry your tears,” they’ll likely say, wiping away their own. “Our hearts are heavy, but we have elections ahead and school board and city council meetings to cover. We have news to report.”
And report the news, they will. Count on it.
Judy Elliott is an award-winning columnist from Marietta