The classic lawyer stereotype is a person who’s rich, unethical, maybe even a little evil. My favorite “evil lawyer” bit appeared in Grace Under Fire, a late 90s sitcom: Facing a nasty divorce, Grace asks a friend if he can put her in touch with a cutthroat attorney.
“Sure,” he replies, “my ex-wife’s lawyer.”
“Great. What’s his number?”
“He doesn’t have a phone. You draw a pentagram and summon him.”
When I told my lawyer friend Dennis this line, he chuckled. “Not that you’re anything like that,” I quickly added. “If anything you’re the opposite.” Dennis smiled and thanked me.
But I understated it. Dennis was one of the kindest, most ethical people I have ever known. Not only was he not rich, he had a diehard habit of representing anyone who needed him, often for little or no money. And this wasn’t standard pro bono lawyer stuff, it was the humble tenderheartedness of man of deep faith and humanity; Dennis was also addicted to doing volunteer work for his church and community.
In other words, as evil lawyers go, he was a complete failure.
Not that that made him immune to the mysteries of mortality. Dennis was secretary-treasurer of my production company, and last week he was supposed to drop off some tax docs. Instead, he sent a terse email: “Heading to ER.”
“Oh, no!” I replied. “Praying!” But for whom. A family member? (His wife and family are also dear to us).
Two days later, his daughter texted, “Dad left some tax docs for you. He has COVID-19.” She added me to the emergency Update.
The next morning, the Update said he was facing probable last-resort ventilation. Then he took a turn for the better. But later that night, another daughter posted, “Saying our goodbyes.” Trudy and I went to bed with our hearts breaking. For his family. For ourselves. For the many who knew and loved him.
The next morning, just 4 days after his quick trip to ER, the Update read, “He’s gone.”
Friends scheduled a candlelight vigil. On a frigid Valentine’s Day eve, perhaps 70 or more people altered their plans and stood in the snow in front of his house. Why? To show our love for his family, certainly. But also to show our gratitude for the person Dennis was.
No, make that is. Because from now on, I know that if I want to summon Dennis’s memory, all I have to do is smile…
And draw a pair of wings.