I miss you Felicia

I just found out that one of my best friends at law school died. She was too young to die.

And too awesome to die. Can’t Death swop her for someone without a fabulous sense of humour? For someone who wasn’t such a presence?

There is nothing lawyerly or logical about her being gone. One day she thought she had the flu. The next day, she is gone. I can’t call her up.

I wish I had a digital photo of her but I don’t. All my pictures of Felicia are from just before the web….from the days when having free LEXIS-NEXIS access felt like having a secret pass to the world.

Felicia is one of the only people I’ve known who made me laugh every time we spoke. Damn. I just wrote “is.”

When I visited a class at Northwestern Law School, I noticed her right away. She had a green flat top with the sides shaved, fishnets, doc martens laced up to the knees, and a loud, confident rebuttal to the professor. I breathed a sigh of relief and thought. “It’s ok, I can go here.”

We were two of very few “out” feminists in the school. I was so perplexed that there was such ignorance of and resistance to feminism in 1991, that I conspired with Felicia and a few others to put on an event to debate “Is Madonna A Feminist for Social Change?” I loved the fact that our classmates would be hearing feminism no matter what side they heard.

I edited some video from Justify My Love and we packed the room, no small feat in that small pond of apathy. Felicia gamely took the “no” side and argued it beautifully in her pink, cleavage-baring suit. The same suit and cleavage she famously put to use when meeting Chief Justice Rhenquist the year before. The woman had flair.

Felicia fell in love with a classmate John Brewer. John was known for his advocacy of the Federalist Society and his passion for Wiliam F Buckley. They were, initially, an uncanny couple. It was John, I believe, who took Felicia to a party for some conservative notable where Felicia snuck into the office, swiped Phyllis Schlafly’s home number and then ceremonially presented it to our feminist professor and mentor as a gift.

We started a group called Chycks and invited the other women we knew with chutzpah to a tea with cucumber sandwiches, chocolate chip cookie dough pate and a free space to let our minds and mouths run.

Felicia had flair. She had humour. She had backbone. She thought she had the flu.

There is no time to mess around people. None. She was one of the best. Full of the joy and contradiction and brilliance of life. She could argue one side and then the other with the best of them. And oh, there always seemed to be sides. It was law school, after all. There were fights to be fought.

How could she and John be in love? How could it work? But work it did.

Love is way beyond sides.

I am older now. I am not so sure that it’s important to be so sure of sides.

I just want to hear her laugh.

There is no time to waste. None at all.

20 Replies to “I miss you Felicia”

  1. I wish I had words of comfort. But the only thing I can say is that we should all hope to make an impact on someone the way she made an impact on you, and be unapologetic about our own individuality, the way you recall her being. Wishing you comfort.

  2. Felicia was always the most life-filled presence in any room. Our first year of law school was difficult for me. I was ten year older than everyone else, gay, and not at all sure that I had the intellectual ability to keep up with these brillliant kids around me. I had barely said two words to anyone when one day early in the semester Felicia walks up to me and says, basically, I think you might be gay, and that’s cool with me because most so are most of my friends. Her bravery left me speechless. It was her reaching out to someone she could see felt out of place, and it was what I needed to help me exhale and come to enjoy law school years as one of the happiest periods of my life.
    I just heard we have lost Felicia. Although I suspect it’s been at least five years since we have spoken, it is staggering. I always took it for granted that someday we would sit down with a bottle of wine and laugh about all the places life had taken us. I cannot imagine the loss for John and her children. My thoughts go out to you, Heather, and all of us who had larger lives because of Felicia.

  3. Thanks so much Esther, and yes Steve, I always took that “someday bottle of wine with laughs” for granted too. I am still stunned that it won’t be possible.

    Thanks for sharing your story. She lived out loud. And she helped us do the same.

  4. Heather, I unfortunately knew John better than Felicia, but they were a magnificent couple indeed. She will be missed. I can’t even imagine what John and the two small kids will be going through over the next months and years.

  5. Felicia was one of the great personalities I have ever met. She was a wonder. When I first met her, her first reaction was to size me up (noticing my doc martens boots, of course) and take me around to meet people she throught I should know. Within days of meeting her we were going to the most obnoxious rock concerts imaginable, I had dragooned her into writing for a local newspaper, we were working on outlines for law school classes, and she was arguing with me about feminist theory. She was (I can’t believe I’m using the past tense) a force of nature. She will be missed.

  6. One of the great joys of law teaching is running into people like Felicia–full of life, ideas, and great humor. One of the great sadnesses of teaching law school is losing someone like Felicia–way before her time.

    Len

  7. Truly one of the unique individuals and outstanding in our class, she was a great person to talk to and always full of vitality….. I have not seen her in 15 years but she was and is hard to forget… Jake (’93)

  8. I’ve just learned of Felicia’s passing only half an hour ago. The thought of a world without her leaves me struggling for breath; I can only imagine what John and the girls are experiencing–rudderlessness, life forevermore without electricity. Felicia was the joyous party lantern in any setting. I can’t remember when I met Felicia–shortly before she and John, who I knew in college, were married. She was working for Grais & Philips, and my father’s employer was one of their clients. Felicia was assigned to my father, who decided this bright, funny, smart lawyer and his daughter might enjoy meeting each other. Our first conversation, before we actually even laid eyes on each other, we spent laughing uproariously about the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. And I’m not a lawyer. Felicia was on my mind only a few days ago. I had intended to call her to tell her how happy it made me to dress my newborn #2 son in the adorable outfit she sent me when #1 son was born, because it reminded me of her and made the distance between us, me in Missouri and Felicia in New York, seem less huge. It’s hard to imagine she’s not there.

  9. I miss her, too. She was the first person I met in Los Angeles. So kind, full of life, and fabulous. I was going to say “wonderful” but fabulous seems a better fit. Thanks for the blog. It helps.

  10. Thank you for putting this up. Like everyone, I am shocked and saddened that this special, ALIVE person has been taken so quickly and so young. I worked for several years with John and was lucky enough to get to hang out, if briefly, with Felicia, John and my wife Susan, a literature professor who of course loved Felicia. She will be sorely missed.

  11. Felicia was a very close friend of mine. We shared our thoughts and feelings about all things great and small, many times a day. I cannot count the amount of times in the past few days that I have wanted to call her and discuss what is going on regarding her own death. I see her children and I just want to hug them and tell them how great their mom was. I want to tell them how much she loved them, but I am sure they know that, after all Felicia was their mom. Her death is shocking and senseless. The loss is intense and palpable, I miss her immensely.
    I have written this message on the other blog as well, I cannot help but repeat my sentiments here. I miss her.

  12. I am so thankful that Elaine, Felicia’s across the street neighbor, alerted me to this blog. I know Felicia from Pelham, NY or Pelshire as we called it. We would have long, loud conversations over our coffees (she stopped working to give those little ladies bundles of unconditional love each and every day). I live and work in the tiny village at the teeny Art Center, which she stormed the first year she moved here. We would chuckle – marooned in semi-urbia, ok, SUBURBIA! Her email stepfordmom said it all – her humor deep, her character deep, her civic engagement deep, her intelligence deep, her humility deep, her love for her man and her girls – the deepest. The depth of our disbelief knows no measure. Life’s mysteries can be wonderous or devastating. I am so happy to have known her and relished when we could get together so I could be bathed, enveloped in her excitement, her fearlessness, her candor. Hard to let go. I head to her home tonight to sit shiva. Tears spill and this grief just keeps coming.

  13. I am a friend and neighbor of Felicia’s. In the 3 1/2 short years she lived in our myopic little town she had a really profound impact. I’m writing here to get the word out to pre-Pelham friends that we’re putting together a memory book for the family. I can print things out from the blog or your can email me directly at youngm@broadwaterllc.com. The family will want to know who the initial contributor is? Can someone tell me Heather’s last name?

    For those of you who couldn’t join us yesterday for the funeral and burial, it was immensely sad – the image of her plain, pine coffin being lowered in to the ground, and all of us helping to shovel dirt on top of it. It’s a searing memory that may be with me forever. She was surrounded by immense love to the very end.

  14. I have never written a blog before but all of you who are writing here have moved me to try to make a contribution. Also, I think these thoughts and pictures of “life with Mom” will become precious to Felicia’s and John’s girls, giving them memories that they might otherwise loose. And so I write to add to the memories. First, I didn’t know Felicia as well as most of you did, even though I’m her cousin (kind of a distant one–I’m a second cousin of Ike’s–his grandmother and my grandfather, who died before I was born, were brother and sister). I was always intrigued by that part of the family–the Cuban Jewish side–a little exotic for a girl from North Carolina. I got to know Gilda, Felicia’s aunt, before Felicia was born, but I didn’t meet Ike until long after, when it turned out that we both had daughters living in NY, on the upper east side, and they had had their first baby girls at the same time. These commonalities, added to the fact that Ike and Sherry had moved to the Bay Area, where we have lived for many years, allowed us to develop a closeness. We wanted our daughters (mine is Rachel Berg) to get to know each other. Felicia and Rachel it turned out had lots in common, but one of those things was the fact the neither was interested in contacting the other just because there was some distant kinship and just because their parents suggested that they meet. Fortunately, within a short time, their paths crossed, unbeknownst to them. Many of you have written about Felicia’s feistiness and her deeply help opinions and her love of a good argument–and ironically Rachel and Felicia met because they got into an argument, each of taking her side seriously. Rachel called me to help her find some references on whether working moms do damage to their kids (Rachel argued that working didn’t cause harm–and she chose to stay at home, I always thought, because she thought my working was harmful to her!–and Felicia said working did do damage–and so many of you characterize her as a feminists’ feminist–Rachel’s first impression was that she was an arch conservative!). When Rachel called me to find out about the research on the topic, she described her need to be prepared because of her formidable opponent–a lawyer with a daughter named Rachel whose name was Felicia. It clicked for me then that this must be the cousin. Once they figured out their relationship together and on their own terms and once they really started to talk and get to know one another, they became fast friends, learning that they had much in common. Rachel says that Felicia taught her the valuable life lesson of not jumping to conclusions about people too soon.

    I had what now is precious little time with Felicia over the years, when I visited NY. I loved how the two cousins found so much in common–across years and generations. I love now that Rachel had the gift of Felicia’s friendship, even if all too briefly.

    For Rachel and Lilly, you had a great mom, one who valued family and who knew how to be her own person. I hope you will stay close to your New York cousins, who are about your age and who in some way are links to your mom. And I hope you and they find your own ways to benefit from her larger-than-life example of how to live in this complex world of ours.

  15. I am so saddened and stunned to hear of Felice’s passing. I work in the Pelham Library where Felice came in often with her two daughters. She also led the library’s story time on numerous occasions. Though I was not a close friend of hers it was easy to see many of the traits all of you have spoken of. She was so friendly and easy to talk to. My children are a lot older then Felice’s but we would often joke about the joys of motherhood. It was more then apparent that she idolized both of her daughters. It seems to me that little Lilly shares many of her mother’s traits. She’s a little firecracker that I always got a kick out of anytime she came in with Felice. My deepest sympathy and condolences to her family and friends.

  16. As Mother’s Day approaches, I have been thinking about Felicia, and praying for her children and John. I was deeply saddened and stunned by Felicia’s passing. I remember with fondness our time in law school, especially our time on the Student Bar Association. She was so smart and so much fun. She was refreshingly radical, but also very responsible. She had a presence that filled the room.
    I pray for John and her children, and they have our deepest sympathy and condolences.

  17. We lived in New York between 2000 and 2002. Felicia worked in the same office as my better 1/2 and one evening Felicia and John invited us for dinner. Foodwise it was a bit of a disaster: the fish was burned and the vegetables forgotten. Felicia was radiant but also extremely nervous and we wondered why? Two days later we heard that just before that dinner Felicia had heard that she was pregnant !

    She and I disagreed about politics – yet she was one of the most pleasant and outgoing people I ever met. She was generous, fun, welcoming, the life and soul of the party. We were shocked to hear of her death – and today ten months later I googled her and found this tribute page. We miss her.

    JP, London

  18. Just thinking about Felice and grateful for all the people who have shared their memories here. It was her birthday not too long ago. I hope it was a good day for her family of wonderful memories and not too painful. Tomorrow is a rally for the Prop 8 Day of Decision in NY. I dare say she would have come with me and certainly would have supported my right to my marriage and full legal equality.

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