Section Review

When goodbye is not enough -
A tribute to a friend

Lawyers are usually the last people to find themselves at a loss for words. Whether it is the written word or the spoken word, words are the essence of our craft, the fabric from which we create our works of art and thus easily accessible for our use. So why is it so hard to find the right words to say goodbye?

On Oct. 3, 2005 my partner, mentor and friend, Richard D. Packenham, universally known as "Packy," died. Since that time, I, as well as many others in the family law community, have struggled to find the appropriate way to say goodbye. This tribute is the product of a long and painful journey to find the answer to that question.

Once in a lifetime, if you are lucky, you come across a person who can fill an entire room with energy, passion and light. These are not ordinary people, but extraordinary people who are blessed with a love of life that knows no bounds. Packy was one of those people.

Packy was a devoted husband to Susan and a dedicated and loving father to Colin, Olivia and Luke. His world began and ended each day with his children. He carried a myriad of pictures of them in his battered briefcase and a million more stories about them in his head. They were the loves of his life and the reason for so many of the things that he did as an attorney. While his love for his children was unmatched, his devotion to children extended well beyond his home to his community and the legal community as a whole.

Packy often committed himself to helping families who could not afford proper legal representation. On one occasion, Packy had the great fortune, as he put it, to be appointed to represent an indigent mother who had appeared pro se at a hearing relating to an interstate custody dispute in which she alleged her husband had abused her and her children from her first marriage. Packy diligently represented the mother at that hearing and went on to represent her throughout the case, including an appeal to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, all without charge.

Outside of his legal work on behalf of children, Packy coached hockey and lacrosse in Dedham and Walpole with the same passion with which he tried a case. He mentored young athletes, encouraging them to not only become the best team players they could be, but also to be the best people they could be. Packy believed that our future was the youth of our community, and he undertook to ensure that these children would have a solid base upon which to shape their futures and ours.

As a lawyer, Packy was a skilled and tenacious advocate who never lost sight of the big picture. He devoted himself to the practice of law with the same energy with which he lived his life. He never lost interest in learning about the law and about the essence of a case. He enjoyed the intricacies of the practice of family law and the other aspects of the law that often entered into our practice. He relished the challenge of learning about a new business and examining and cross-examining an expert in that field.

Packy's love of life spilled out into the office, as well as into the legal community. He had a sharp intellect, a great sense of humor, and an infectious laugh that made practicing law fun. For those of you who knew him personally, you will remember his incredible recall of the law. He could quote the legal principles established in cases, as well as the case names and cites with little or no hesitation. He combined his sense of humor and his intellect in educating the bench and bar. For years, he traveled around the state, from Barnstable to Northampton and every county in between, with his "Recent Developments in Family Law" road show. His commentary was legendary and he offered his insights with clarity and humor. He freely and happily shared this wealth of knowledge with anyone who took the time to ask, and he mentored many young lawyers.

Packy was my mentor too. He helped me to dissect a case and put together a trial as if we were piecing together a puzzle. His love of evidence and the law were contagious. He encouraged me to speak in public, to volunteer and to write. He proudly watched my accomplishments from the sidelines and carried my defeats as if they were his own.

Packy was able to balance his personal and professional lives in a manner that allowed his professional family to reap the benefits of his enormous personality and generosity. While we worked hard, we laughed equally as hard. He taught us to see the humor in life and shared with us his "glass is always half full" attitude. While he was well known for his devotion to the Grateful Dead, he shared with us his love of all music and introduced us all to a variety of artists. He encouraged all members of our firm to see and experience music in concert or by listening to the various CDs he brought into the office. His easy smile, quick wit and laughter filled the office and made us realize that life was less about the nine-to-five and more about living life to the fullest and loving every minute of it.

After much reflection, I have come to realize that Packy will always be with me: in the way I ask a question of a witness at trial; in the way I analyze a case and introduce evidence at trial; in the way I read and interpret a recent decision; and in the way I look at life and appreciate it for what it is and not for what it could or should have been.

Packy's real success in life came not from his mastery of the law, but from who he was.

 

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has enjoyed the trust of pure woman, the respect of intelligent man and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it; whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.

- Betty Anderson Stanley

 

Packy's memory is a benediction. There is no need to say goodbye.

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association