A Tribute to Mary Daly by jade Deforest

"Mary Daly died this morning," the voice on the phone said. All the air seemed to leave the room, my lungs, as I struggled to take this in. I had known she wasn't well, had known for some time that her health was deteriorating and that this time was coming. Even so, how can any of us really be prepared for a loss this great, this enormous?

There are countless tributes to Mary, on the internet, in newspapers and other publications, extolling her genius, her absolute brilliance. We all know her contributions to womyn, her relentless and fierce unmasking of patriarchy and the insidious role it has played and continues to play in the lives of all womyn, of all female beings. She took enormous, incalculable risks for womyn. We all know this.

I want to write about a more personal Mary Daly, one I came to know when planning a reunion of feminists in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the summer of 2007.

Her intense love of animals, which grew even greater as she aged. She talked of a television program she saw, watching a small group of deer drinking at a pond, ever-watchful, ever-fearful of what might be lurking in the woods, at the edge of the pond. "They looked so vulnerable," she said. "I can relate to that now because I can't move quickly, I don't see as well, I am at their mercy . . ."

Her long conversations with our cat, Tori, who had an uncanny sense of when it was Mary on the phone. They talked to each other, Mary in her cat language, Tori in hers, elaborate conversations that only they understood. Often Mary would call and say, "I don't want to talk to you, I want to talk to Tori." I never had to call that cat to the phone; she was already there, waiting to talk to her new best friend.

Mary talked about a photograph on her wall, a wolf, and wondered what it would be like to actually be (italicized) that wolf, to feel her fur, feel the ground beneath her paws, see with wolf eyes. "You can do it, you can be that now," I told her. "Of course I can," she replied. "I forget that I can do that. Shape-shifters, we once were. I still am, you know. I might just show up at your house, a bird or a snake or a giraffe." "I think the giraffe would be a dead give-away," I said. "Well yeah, especially in the desert. Maybe a coyote."

Mary was eager to write another book, wanted help with the title. "Once I have the title, I have the book," she said. Writing was her life, made her feel vibrant, young, able to do anything and everything, able to feel less vulnerable . . .

Sitting in the warm New Mexico sun we watched an old woman being pushed in a wheelchair. "Not me," she said. "I don't want to be like that." "Would you rather die first?" I asked her. "I don't want to die, I'm afraid." "What are you afraid of?" I asked.

"I'm afraid no one will remember me," she said. I hope, Mary, that you can see the tears, feel the great loss we are all feeling, and know that we will never, never forget you.

And in that, there is great joy.

"Empowerment comes from ideas."

Gloria Anzaldúa

"Your silence will not protect you."

Audre Lorde

"Live your lives, honorably and with dignity."

Andrea Dworkin