I did not know her well. She was close with my best friend Alan, even more so than with Alan’s wife Gila, though they were friends too. This was unusual since both women were Orthodox and Alan is not religious. But Linda was not usual.
Linda was an attorney who lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and also worked as a Court Examiner, a job she encouraged Alan to pursue after much of
his work as a consultant and teacher for children with Autism dried up during the worst of the pandemic.
Which Linda survived. She contracted Covid early and recovered, but never fully recovered—her lungs were scarred, she had constant trouble breathing, she suffered lasting pains and complications. And then there was the City, her City—also not the same. Without theatre to go to, restaurants, friends to see, what was the point of living here? Better off in a condo near the beach in Florida.
Which she found. A two-bedroom penthouse a block from the beach with a swimming pool, so she could swim every day. Sunshine. Still, she had trouble breathing and suffered daily pains. Alan says she had a wicked, irreverent sense of humor, one of the things he loved most about her. They would speak almost daily on the phone. Linda joked about her own suffering: “That’s ok, if it doesn’t get better, I have the pills!”
Alan was driving home in New Jersey when he heard the news of a building that collapsed in Surfside, FL. He was worried when he heard they were doing work on the roof. They were doing work on Linda’s roof. He phoned Linda. No answer. Linda was married to David for a few years and the two couples were friends, but then Linda and David divorced and the friends lost touch. But Alan stayed in touch with Linda. He knew she had an Uncle —a Reform Rabbi. Alan would try to contact him.
I remember Linda from Shabbat and holiday meals at Alan and Gila’s. After her illness and before the vaccine, Linda came to their home for Rosh Hashana, and she requested no other guests—she was so cautious about getting reinfected.
When it became clear that this was Linda’s building and the top floor photograph in the news was her apartment, Alan said “She’s gone” and fell into grief for his friend. Gila recites Psalms every day and kept Linda in mind as long as there was some hope.
Then no hope. Gone. Linda has no one to say Kaddish for her —no spouse, no siblings, no children. We can only hope that at 1:30 a.m. when the building collapsed, she was in bed sleeping and never woke up. Alan said Linda lived there only briefly —about three months. She was always complaining about the noise. “They didn’t tell me when I moved in that they would be working on the roof! I want to get out of here! But that’s ok, if I don’t —I have the pills!” Always joking. And trying to get out, to move somewhere else. Just not fast enough.
In Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the company of dwarves, the hobbit and the wizard are pursued by goblins, from whom they escape and then they are chased by wolves. Bilbo tells us that out of this there came a saying, “Escaping goblins to be caught by wolves.” Meaning, of course, out of the frying pan into the fire. Literally. They take refuge in some tall trees, while Gandalf sends down flaming pine cones, terrorizing the wolves. But then goblins return and redirect the fire and it threatens to burn our heroes in the trees; it looks like they are through. But suddenly, great Eagles descend from the sky to save them and they survive to continue their journey. Saved by magical creatures. But this is fiction, fantasy.
Linda March survived Covid. And despite scars and suffering, her sense of humor was intact: She had the pills! Then she left New York, for a warmer, easier place where she had lived before. But—escaping Goblins to be caught by wolves—she didn’t survive Florida that night, and there were no great Eagles to swoop down to save her or the other unfortunate residents of that building.
There is an old Yiddish saying, “A person tries and God laughs.” Meaning, of course, we make our best plans and then something else happens. But God is not laughing here. If anything, God is crying like the rest of us. So I’d like to let Linda have the last laugh here, with her wicked, irreverent sense of humor that Alan loved so much. I imagine Linda’s voice swooping down from heaven, like some great Eagle, now part of the Divine voice, her words a revelation—cracking like lightning, her laughter rolling like thunder: “ALAN! I didn’t need the pills!” Linda March. May her memory be for a blessing. May she rest in peace. G&S
Queer Stories in G&S are dedicated in memory of Holden McCormack and edited by Robin Goldfin.