The National Women’s Studies Association annual conference used to conclude with a dance party on Saturday night. Anyone who attended one of these knows that it disproves the idea that feminists do not know how to have fun, as we always had a blast. For a variety of reasons, NWSA stopped hosting the dance starting with the 2009 conference. I was already in Atlanta when I got a Facebook comment from Jessica Nathanson asking if it were true that there would be no dance this year and if so, should we organize a dance outing? During the conference, Facebook messages and texts flew back and forth as we worked out a plan. When Saturday night came, though, I begged off, saying I was tired and that taxi travel in Atlanta was too complicated. Besides, I thought, we will have plenty more NWSA conferences at which we can organize dance parties. The 2010 conference came and went and I only saw Jessica in passing, both of us too busy with other things.
Yesterday I learned that Jessica passed away on Monday. Her loss affects not just her family, friends, colleagues, students, and those of her knew her professionally; it is also a huge loss for the women’s studies, women’s centers, and feminist communities to which she belonged. I only knew Jessica through our annual conference and Facebook, but she never failed to offer support to me when I needed it. She treated everyone that way, never failing to be supportive to colleagues and generous with her time.
I will miss seeing her and following her work. And I will always regret not going dancing in Atlanta. Jessica’s death is a reminder that we should not take for granted how much time we have with someone. So the next time someone you care for asks you to do something and you start to make excuses as to why you can’t, stop and say yes instead.