She died as she lived, in service to her country, hanging on as long as she could, after a lifetime of exemplary service, to oppose the current threat to American democracy. This is a picture of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a little girl. Maria Popova posted it this morning in Brain Pickings. What an amazing person she turned out to be.
The first thing I noticed was her eyes, bright, shiny, intelligent, joyful. They didn’t change or weary as she grew except to become more wise. Look at her hands, one assertive, one modest and private. This is a child who already understands that balance and decorum can live compatibly with conviction. Behind her is a patch of green things growing, a metaphor for the fruitful life she would grow into.
Some adults go through life haunted by a troubled unhappy child companion who saps one’s energy until their troubles are acknowledged and addressed. We the people lose an enormous amount of talent and ability to poverty, cruelty, prejudice and disease. How many Ruth’s have we lost to our detriment?
Looking at Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s radiant companion, the child who walked beside her, I rejoice in the mother and father who taught Ruth to value herself and her independence; who protected the inner private child and encouraged the outer one to step out. We see in her the adult we could all be. It depends on luck and love, that’s true. But Ms. Ginsberg proved beyond doubt that it is possible, necessary and righteous to choose.
The girl in this picture expects me to opt for kindness, honesty and intelligence, all day every day, both in small barely discernable moments, and in tremendous instances of import. That expectation is her real legacy. Doable and demanding, exciting and rewarding it lies within the grasp of each pair of hands, each steadfast heart.
All that’s left to say is, thank you.