At Yale Divinity School, Lana Schwebel was both my advisor and the person I took the most classes with (I took 4 classes with her). She was my mentor, my biggest influence, someone who inspired my teaching and thinking in bold new ways, and someone I loved very deeply.
I of course was no dream student to work with. I was arrogant, angry, bitter, hurting, and I certainly was a rough surface to work with for even the most patient teacher. I was an immature brat, someone who brought many wounds with them to Grad School, who continued to suffer them, but Lana was the person who really kept me together. She could be motherly when I needed it (the unending supply of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the lemon cookies in her office), she could give tough love when I needed it (often), she knew how to be a true mentor when it was needed (I learned how to write academic papers from her, how to do research), and she knew how to be a friend when it was needed. She was always there to inspire, inform, teach, guide, expand, push, and nurture her students and advisees. What a student owes to a teacher, especially a great teacher like her, can never really be repaid.
Lana was at many times, more often than not by far, a nurturing and inspiring teacher, we did have more than a few really inspiring conversations, she did let me into the Literature program when Philosophy fizzled down around me, led me into the General MA when I thought I wanted to do that, and then let me back into the Literature program when I changed my mind back a month later.
I learned a great deal about Christian Mysticism from her, a lot about pilgrimage, Medieval Christianity, Metaphysical poetry, and the Elegy tradition. We disagreed on whether of not John Donne considered himself playing with witchcraft when he was younger (I said he did), on whether or not Kabbalah had a greater importance in what I called "real Judaism" than she was willing to give credit to, whether Herbert Spencer had naturalist tendencies (I said he did), whether or not Augustine damaged Christianity with his anti-Semtisim (I said he did), but no matter what intense discussion we had I always left her knowing far more about both sides of the argument, this growing feeling that I had really been in the presence of a master.
I have utilized what she taught me in every class I taught, I teach, I carry her lessons and teachings deep within me as a growing academic, theologian, and intellectual. She was an amazing Medievalist, was profoundly passionate about what she believed in, and was well-admired by so many faculty and students alike. Although she is gone, her teachings will live on inside of me for the length of my life. Through me, in her students, the lives she touched, she will live on.
As each day passes since I learned of this news, something really burns within me: a longing for how much of my time with her I could have spent better. Her presence, her brilliance, passion, wisdom, joy, beauty, her zest for learning, backed up by a real competitive and ferocious hunger for learning at all costs that took root within me, that shook me up and made me see that within all her particularities, this was someone of greatness and she made/makes me want to be great.
I miss her so much, and I feel ever-the-more driven now to do something great with my life, to keep her teaching alive. She was an amazing person indeed, every second I had with her was like sitting in the presence of the philosopher's stone.
Peace and Blessings to You, Lana!
You are SO very missed!