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My friend Terry Teachout has let us all know that his wife, Hilary Dyson Teachout, has died after her long ordeal. It makes the heart sick to learn the news–it reminds me, the poet said, it is a fearful thing to love what death may touch.
Love is a daring wish for immortality, perfection, completion: I reach out to another being, more precious to me than life, and reach up to the heavens at the same time, as though winged: To love is to learn to die.
I have a few things to say by way of eulogy. Terry has shown us more nobly than anyone I know what it means to hold on to the blessings of love in face of that danger of losing all we treasure. Year after year, crisis after crisis, Hilary was his beloved Mrs. T, fearfully fragile, but astonishingly graceful in the face of death.
Now that she has died, the hidden daring with which she faced every suffering, recovering, and trying again, up to the ordeal of surgery, is obvious to all: A strength of character we can only wish for and admire in someone who never demanded or expected that admiration which she so well deserved.
We should remember Hilary, as Terry described her, lovingly, with discretion and art, suggesting through brief stories how wonderful the woman was and what happiness she had to bestow. We must therefore mourn–suffer along with Terry, and know that the price of nobility has been paid.
I only met Hilary once. Terry told me to take the A train, come record a podcast one afternoon, and welcomed me to his dwelling. Hilary made me feel at home, amused to meet a young man of whom Terry had spoken well — she was confident, pleasant, smiling. It was a scene of domestic happiness movies somehow fail to capture, because you have to witness it, and I was reassured I was no intruder.
I lack the talent to describe the gracious way Hilary had, to brush away all thought of pain, the oxygen the only reminder of death. Hilary wasn’t pretending to enjoy life, including small surprises like me showing up one afternoon looking like the belle epoque, but genuinely enjoyed it all. Perhaps it was simply her happy nature; perhaps her spiritedness added something to it, in spite of suffering. That one memory of Hilary I recur to whenever I talk to Terry, or we correspond, or I read his reports of the agony and the grace. So I share it with you.
I don’t know anyone who deserves his friends more than Terry. It is right to suffer along with him as we also rejoice in him. God bless!
This is the podcast we recorded that afternoon: