Sunday, January 17, 2016

Gary Scott Reedy (1958-2016)

My dear friend and colleague.
I first met Gary in the doorway between Courtroom 206 and chambers.  He struck me as nerdy and eccentric, with a quirky speech pattern and a somewhat nervous laugh.  I was poised to dismiss him as a harmless crank and a jovial misfit, the sort that lends color to the workplace but that requires large investments of time and is therefore best kept at arm's length.  I did not know it then, but I was standing at another doorway, an unseen doorway, and the course of lives would depend on whether I decided to go in or continue on my way.  I decided to set aside the temptation to dismiss Gary and went in that doorway.

And so we became friends.  In the fall of that year we were assigned to work together on the same calendar, and we got to know each other more.  Gary turned out to be highly intelligent, a shrewd and wily negotiator, and a tenacious fighter.  He was also a great talker and possessed a wit of a high order, and we had a lot of good back-and-forths and a lot of laughs.   He frequently appeared in my doorway; sometimes he would pace around in my office, tapping on the top of my water cooler with his fingers while recounting some client's courtroom follies, or going over a particularly hairy case; other times, he would sit and talk about his travels, which he relished, or his wife and daughter, to whom he was utterly devoted, or about Rumpole of the Bailey, of whom we were both fans. 

It didn't take long in our acquaintance to run into the generosity and sweetness that underlay Gary's gruff exterior.  Early in our working partnership, I suddenly found myself between cars.  Gary let me have his old station wagon until I could get another car.  That he would lend me a car without knowing me very long was extraordinarily generous.  How he did it was extraordinarily sweet.  He did not give me to understand that he was doing me an immense favor -- though he was -- or make me feel as though I was incurring a debt -- though I was.  He and Phoebe and Lizzie brought the car to the office, all washed and cleaned, and he handed me the key as though I was doing him a favor and placing him in my debt by letting him help me.

Another time we were working a heavy load of pretrial conferences when one of my clients, unhappy with how I had resolved his case, shot a parting insult at me over his shoulder on his way out the door in front of a packed courtroom.  Gary's response was swift and decisive.  He immediately got between the guy and the door and would not let him out of the room until he had, in the plainest terms, made him see the error of his ways in thinking that his rudeness toward me was somehow acceptable.  His dressing down of the guy was as public as the guy's offense against me had been, and by an amazing coincidence, there was a marked improvement in everyone else's behavior that day.  Gary seemed concerned afterward that I would think that he thought I couldn't take care of myself.  On the contrary: I don't know if I ever sufficiently conveyed to him how much it lifted my spirits to have him stick up for me.  From that day forward, Gary was my hero.

Gary was an authentic tough guy, in the best sense of the word: not a hoodlum or a ruffian, but staunch and passionate in his defense of the underdog, yet courtly and gentlemanly, uncompromising in his pursuit of righteousness according to his lights, keenly aware of being at the service of causes greater than himself.  Amid his many trials, in and out of the courtroom, he was always thoughtful and considerate, constantly overlooking wrongs or slights against himself, uncomplaining in his fortitude, and always looking to ease other people's burdens, or at least refrain from adding to them.

Never did these qualities shine forth more brightly than in his greatest and last trial.  Through all the laughs and the jokes and the stories and the lunch runs to Winco, I couldn't help eyeing the ever-changing growths and lesions on his head and face.  Gary always tried to make light of these uncomfortable reminders of his mortality.  He would emphasize that his kind of cancer was among the less virulent varieties, and talk reassuringly about his doctors' experience and qualifications and plans of attack.  Even after his prostate surgery, and the discovery of tumors in the lymph nodes in his neck, he referred to his cancer as a "first world problem."  He would say that at least he had all the medical care he needed to get these things taken care of, as if they were mere inconveniences.  Then came that awful morning when he closed my office door and sat down and carefully and gently worked his way to the news that he was terminal, trying his best to cushion the blow.

Then came the inevitable day that, to Gary, seemed at least as sore a blow to him as the news of his impending end: the day it became clear that the pain and the fatigue were too much for him to go on working.  The hard knocks he had taken over the course of his career did not diminish his love for his work, or for his colleagues, and he worked hard to get used to the idea that his part in the battle was over.  Now he had to arm himself for a greater battle, one that he knew he would ultimately lose, but that he was determined to fight as well as he could.  But he never forgot us, and never tired of keeping tabs on us: even near the end, when he was bedridden and barely able to speak, he wanted to hear about our small triumphs and tragedies at the office, and revel in our victories.

And so Gary's last days passed -- all too quickly.  Too few were the opportunities left to seek his advice; or to take him out for a picnic at the drive-in after his pain medications made it impossible for him to drive anymore; or to enjoy his cooking, which he loved.  As the weeks passed, he grew weaker, and his lesions increased, and his immune system broke down as he fought to stay alive through the holidays; but his courage and his sense of humor rose to meet every setback.  After coming very close to death in November, he rallied, as the dying often do.  When I came to see him during his father's last visit, to my surprise, he opened the door to me himself, walking without a cane or a walker.  He threw his arms around me and said, "I was dying, but I changed my mind!"

But then came the moment that he -- and we -- could only hope to postpone, and the long-anticipated but dreaded news finally went out.  The battle was over.  Gary had gone in that last doorway through which we all must pass.  He had approached death manfully; "nothing in his life became him like the leaving it."  Now there was nothing left for the rest of us to do but pray for his soul, and mourn, and pay him his last offices. And, like Gary's beloved Horace Rumpole, quote Rumpole's beloved Wordsworth:
The rainbow comes and goes,        And lovely is the rose;          The moon doth with delight      Look round her when the heavens are bare;          Waters on a starry night          Are beautiful and fair;      The sunshine is a glorious birth;      But yet I know, where'er I go,  That there hath pass'd away a glory from the earth.
The fate of a soul that has gone to stand before God in judgment is hidden from us.  While we remain on earth, we cannot know whether that soul has gone to everlasting life or everlasting punishment.  But we can hope in God's fathomless mercy.  I hope in God's mercy.  I have hope that the God Who loved Gary infinitely, and created him from nothing for the express purpose of being happy forever in heaven, poured out His mercy upon him.  And so I think of Gary, appearing in my doorway, like he used to.  In my mind's eye, he is young, with the youth of the soul that never fades even in old age.  He is beautiful, with the beauty that in this life was hidden from all but those who loved him.  He is radiant, with the glory of those whom the grave cannot hold forever.  He bears the wounds and the lesions and the tumors no longer as torments or disfigurements, but as trophies of victory, set like jewels in the crown of immortality.  Every one of them taught him patience and humility and fortitude and resignation; every one was a rung on the ladder to heaven.  They could not defeat his spirit, but only his body; but even in his body they will be defeated in the consummation of the world, when the Last Trumpet sounds, and the graves are opened, and hell and death are cast into the lake of fire, and every tear is wiped from our faces forever.


  1. Anita - what beautiful testimony to a fine man. I will add him to my prayer list.

  2. Beautiful testimony to someone who surely had a beautiful soul. May he rest in eternal peace.

  3. I hope that when I die somebody - anybody - could write half as decent a tribute to me as you have to Gary, but I fear that, whatever his religion, he was probably a long way ahead of me in holiness.

  4. what a tribute to a fine man. may he rest in peace