July 25th, 2007

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Harvard's Russian Bells

Back in January 2004, the New York Times reported that the Danilov Monastery in Russia wanted Harvard to return the bells which have hung in the Lowell House bell tower for about 80 years. I was one of the bell-ringers in college, and so I wrote a letter to the Times, supporting the notion that Harvard should get to keep the bells. After all, had Harvard not bought them from Charles Crane, they would have been melted down and would no longer exist.

As it stands, though, the agreement made between Harvard and the Russian Orthodox Church was for Harvard to return the bells. However, the monastery agreed to cast a brand new set of bells for Harvard, so Lowell House could still have bells in its bell tower. I saw in today's Boston Globe website the following AP report:


July 25, 2007
MOSCOW -- Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II yesterday consecrated 18 newly cast brass bells destined for Harvard University in a trade that will return the originals to Russia nearly 80 years after they were saved from Stalin's religious purges. The originals have hung for decades in the towers at Lowell House and Harvard Business School's Baker Library in Cambridge. American industrialist Charles R. Crane bought the bells from the Soviet government in 1930, saving them from being melted down in purges that left thousands of monks executed and churches and monasteries destroyed or turned into prisons and orphanages.


So how do I feel about this? Well, the old bells had character and history, but so will the new ones. As long as Lowell House has bells in its bell tower, I'm happy. I just hope I get invited back for whatever celebrations Harvard plans to inaugurate the new bells.

More information can be found at
Patriarch consecrates bells for Harvard (Boston.com)
Lowell Bells Get Russian Farewell (The Harvard Crimson)
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Six Months

Today is six months since Mom died on January 25. A lot has happened since then.

On a practical level, we managed to get through many of the estate issues. Early on in the process, we had to lay out money to pay for the funeral and other incidental expenses associated with Mom's death. Thanks to Mom's perspicaciousness, we had a little money from her with which to eventually cover all those expenses. We emptied out the house and arranged to have everything either moved into storage, given away, or thrown out. We put the house on the market and managed to sell it, allowing us to pay off the immense debts that Mom had accumulated in her last years.

On an emotional level, when Mom died I was asked to handle funeral arrangements, which I managed, with much thanks to Nomi, who helped keep me together. I had a cathartic shiva, during which I reminisced a lot about Mom and what she meant to the family. I took on the task of family archivist, making sure to keep family documents together and safe to the best of my ability. I found myself becoming closer with my younger brother, as the two of us continue to stay in touch by email and phone, talking about what Mom meant to the two of us.

On a mundane level, I managed to get myself back to work and to be a part of a major project that we completed just a few weeks ago.

I'd like to think that Mom and Dad raised us to be prepared to deal with the facts of their deaths. I think they'd be proud of the way I handled myself in this time, but part of me wishes I could run this all by her, and just make sure that she feels we're handling everything the way she would like us to.

Tomorrow is my parents' wedding anniversary. In 1964, 43 years ago, they started a marriage that lasted 26 years, only ending due to the death of my father. But those 26 years were wonderful years, and I am grateful to have been part of this family.