A Final Toast to My Network

21 Oct 2010 10:15am Philip P. Frickey 

In the last year of his life, Professor Philip P. Frickey began a book about his personal spiritual journey to serenity in the face of a terminal diagnosis. Forced by circumstances to confront the instinctive fear of death we all share, he had found a way to normalize it, with help from a remarkable network of colleagues, students, family, friends, and treatment personnel. Though he had nurtured this network for years—extending it with little effort to encompass the leading oncologists for his particular cancer—he was both astonished and profoundly touched when it enveloped him, sustained him, and even made him laugh. His oncologists dosed him with jokes as well as anti-cancer drugs, and he loved them for it.

Professor Frickey intended the following essay to be the prologue to the book he ultimately chose not to write, despite the urgings of those closest to him. He had concluded that his primary message was gratitude—too small a topic, he said, to sustain an entire book. Besides, he was fully occupied with living in the present: appointments, work, family, friends, good books, baseball, and other simple pleasures became more enticing than a major writing project. Though he did not draft the prologue as a free standing essay, his coauthor and colleague Bill Eskridge pressed for its inclusion in the issue of the California Law Review (CLR) commemorating the Frickey Festschrift. He would have approved. And had he been able, he would have thanked CLR for allowing him to express his gratitude one last time, to the network of people who supported him through his final illness.

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