Monday, November 14, 2016

For Athena

Athena Ford was 33 years old when she died on October 23, 2016. About a year before she had been a passenger - with her seatbelt fastened - in a  violent car crash that left her with a traumatic brain injury.

I'm having difficulty dealing with my grief. Athena and I were soldiers together in the campaign to get Obamacare passed, and we wound up walking from Philadelphia to Washington to promote the cause. It was a stunt. There were, I believe, eight of us. We had a lot of support, but it was a grueling march.

When we got to Baltimore, Athena wasn't feeling very well, and in a church where the historian Taylor Branch talked with us and an attentive audience, including my friend Greg Cukor, our organizers found a doctor to evaluate her.

I never knew what the doctor said, but she continued the walk, and we finished together.

About the organizers. One was Dave Ninehouser, who was my roommate in various hotels on the trip. A great guy.

One day, we were a little confused about what our various headquarters wanted us to do. In addition to walking, there were side missions to meet people and talk with them.

Dave, who had the unfortunate responsibility to be a force of authority in our little commune, said, "Well, they're in charge. They must know what they're doing."

We all waited a beat, and then everyone, including Dave, laughed heartily. It was a sixties moment.

When we got to Washington, a crowd of people greeted us in front of Union Station, and then we walked one last leg up to a Senate office building. There, in a cavernous caucus room, Harry Reid told us he was going to pass the bill.

And, by God, he did.

Now, with the election of Donald Trump as president, it looks like the Affordable Care Act may be repealed.

How do I feel about that? I feel like walking to Washington again. Only Athena won't be there. And that breaks my heart.

See also Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Having Fun Reforming Health, and We Were There All Along.


  1. 161114 WJM over wordy post to FBk at Westwords:

    Your grieving & regret obvious, I can offer nothing but commiseration... such is life. Witness as well in the past week, the deaths of: TV journalist Gwen Ifill; consummate modern blues-rocker Leon Russell; the longstanding atmospheric science expert & advocate and President of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Ralph Cicerone; emotionally-aware philosopher and musician Leonard Cohen; the millions of others – humans AND beloved pets – whose lives were lost to us, the poor souls remaining here to strive, to suffer, to revel in life which is still ours for this brief period.

    Meanwhile, life goes on even for the living who are disengaged from it: elections; immoral and/or massive military / police political violence in the Congo, Syria, Myanmar, Russia, Tibet, the US prison-industry econopolitical culture, etc.

    Finally – again as I find myself hijacking a friend's Comment+Post page in Facebook – the acute irony of the US presence RIGHT NOW at the current CLIMATE CHANGE AGREEMENT operational advancement conference/worksession in Marrakesh, Morocco just as the US electorate has rejected – only by a small margin – participation in healing the world.

    Currently, although the USA **has been making progress** (admittedly slowly, but measurably!) the USA, only 330 million of the world's 4+BILLION, still produces twenty percent of the universally acknowledged modern day human-driven greenhouse gas (carbon, principally).

    1. Unless you knew Athena I have no idea what your post was trying to get across! In fact it was kind of heartless! Bill was expressing his thoughts and feelings about one on the kindest souls on our planet! Athena did in her shortened life more then most in a full lifetime! I will never forget her as one kind girl who took the time to talk to me and help me with my insurance and financial issues! On top of just occasionally checking in to just see how I was doing!She was the real deal!

  2. Bill,

    I only just came across your touching tribute to Athena. Thank-you for remembering her in this way.