Judith Lingle Ryan

After I graduated from Smith, I received an MSW from Columbia, and over the next 30 years, balanced career and family.  Although I was and English Lit major in college, I didn’t become a writer until after our son was killed in 1995, in a mountaineering accident.  In the years following his death, I wrote a series of essays on grief and writing, which evolved into a book, “Journey from Mount Rainier:  A Mother’s Chronicle of Grief and Hope,” published in 2006.  I also began to write poetry, which I have continued to do, participating in classes and workshops, hoping to publish eventually.









Judith Lingle Ryan '62


After the Movies  (“The Namesake”)

Even the love scenes were tender – her henna-painted
toes curling in pleasure – but it was the son
touching his father’s hair in the hospital morgue
that unleashed something locked up for almost
twelve years, a longing to run my fingers through
my son’s thick red-gold hair, I hadn’t done that since
he was a boy, but I never stopped wanting to.
At the funeral home he looked frozen, painted – I stood
grasping a rose instead of his hand, placing it in the wood
coffin, daring only to briefly touch the quicksilver
of soft hair on his uncovered hand – the other,
ungloved when he fell, was hidden from us.  Both
hands must have grasped the ax, vainly scratching
impenetrable rime ice, I’ve always wondered
whether he screamed or cursed or called someone’s name,
whether his neck mercifully snapped before
he somersaulted over the frozen cliff, before
he lay still, cradled all night in a moonlit drift of snow.
He was born in the morning, they had taken away
everything except my gold wedding band, my hands
grasped the edge of the bed, a crescendo of pain
when he crowned making me gasp, but I wanted
this boy, the golden fuzz on his head bloodied, his
lusty cry piercing the room with life’s tender possibility.