An Ode to Gwen Ifill

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Since Saturday morning, it seems, my eyeballs have been seeking to solve California’s drought. It began with an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Then, as I watched a troupe of fabulous drag queens complete a challenge for LGBTQ rights on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the tear ducts acted up again. Then, yesterday, I learned of Gwen Ifill’s passing.

Obviously, that news was some of the most difficult to take.

I spent a good part of the day wondering why I took it so hard. It’s not like I knew her personally, though many of the written tributes to her work noted that her viewers thought of her as a friend. That could have been it. In fact, one time I tweeted to her, “You are at the top of my list of people to have a drink with.” She actually responded. “Just one?”

It’s been a tough week for many of us. Some of us had to hold it together for a number of reasons after Election Day, and for me, at least, Saturday morning saw an opening of the floodgates. Gwen Ifill was noticeably absent from the PBS coverage of Election Night. But like so many others, I assumed she was elsewhere, working.

The next four years will, without question, be so much more difficult without Gwen there to bring us information throughout them. Though she was tough, she also brought comfort and a certain amount of satisfaction to those of us who had difficult questions. She always asked them.

“I wanted to be a journalist because I like to ask questions,” she once said in an interview. “And I like the idea that someone might feel responsible for answering them.”

It makes me think that anyone who dreamed of being a reporter as a little girl — myself included — is devastated over the unspeakable loss that is Gwen’s passing. She was so young! So smart! She seemed so kind, and like she would be tremendously fun to hang out with. How the hell are we going to get through this mess without her?

I’m not sure I have the answer, to be honest. But I sense that it has something to do with our collective refusal to stop asking questions, and encouraging our girls to do the same. And don’t stop there. Let’s find that thirst for knowledge where others might not even be looking for it. Let’s cultivate the next generation of Gwens. Let’s stop complaining, and start acting.

We’ll be thinking of you the whole time, Gwen. And wherever you are, I hope you’re laughing, dancing, and enjoying that drink — even more than just one.

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