Friday, September 23, 2016

Final Draft of Jim's Memorial Service 9/15

This was my final draft of my memorial speech for my husband:
Jim Ennis MemorialBorn August 27, 1953 -Died July 7, 2015 at age 62By Gloria Garfunkel Jim Ennis, May his Memory be a Blessing.First I’d like to thank the Tufts Community for facilitating the establishment of the James G. Ennis Memorial Fund for students researching social justice.You were Jim’s coworkers, colleagues, family, friends and students and he missed you all when his illness made him so immunosuppressed that he couldn’t have visitors for most of the two years he was sick. He had a form of blood cancer. He had two stem cell transplants, one that failed after six months and a second which gave us so much hope. He seemed to be getting better in June but was gone by July 7. We were all shocked. His doctors never called him terminal and kept our hopes high until the end.I am grateful for the cards, flowers and good wishes from you all, as well as the flow of spontaneous kindness in the sweet things people said about Jim at his funeral and in cards.Jim loved his job. He loved his colleagues, support staff and students, who he cared about devotedly to help light their way to a meaningful future.Through out his illness, Jim remained calm, thoughtful and appreciative. His first loss was the ability to play his saxophone, losing his breath early on. Then he pursued his growing interest in photography on his iPad. When he felt he was getting better, he purchased a large amount of photography equipment that he never got to use as he had tremors and couldn’t stand or walk without a cane in his last months.Jim had many sociological interests, but his main one was in social analysis of networks like musicians, artists and scientists, and more recently the crossroads of the development of sociology and photography.Jim was also fascinated by Proust, frequently reading aloud to me excerpts.A quote my nephew, Ezra, found on the internet cited by Jim, of either Proust, in Time Regained, or his biographer:And in the end“… the poet was right when he spoke of the ‘mysterious threads’ which are broken by life. But the truth, even more, is that life is perpetually weaving fresh threads which link one individual and one event to another, and that these threads are crossed and recrossed, doubled and redoubled to thicken the web, so that between any slightest point of our past and all the others a fresh network of memories gives us an almost infinite variety of communicating paths to choose from.”We are all here at points of intersection, joined together to celebrate Jim’s life, to create new threads and webs and pass along some of Jim’s love of life and learning through our own threads. I read somewhere that the cost of love is grief and that hardship does not just cause PTSD, but changes survivors in positive ways, too, leading to more empathy, wisdom and sharing of oneself with others. I hope that will be true for me and my family and all of you here today.Without Jim, I feel cut in half, left with one arm and one leg and half a brain. Like a deep scar or a phantom limb, I imagine all will grow back stunted but as a better, more empathic, forgiving and kind person like Jim.Jim was not judgmental. He was a gentle soul who let things go, quickly giving people the benefit of the doubt, seeing things from their point of view. He was very forgiving. I hope that with his death, I can change to be more like him, to carry within me the qualities that made him Jim, to keep him alive in my behavior and soul. That is my hope.I think Jim saw the world as connections. He always kept in touch with old friends. He kept all of his connections through life, over time, even over long times and distances. He was very socially connected in an emotional and intellectual kind of way.We spent months together in our living room, between over a dozen hospitalizations. As a former psychologist, I am now a writer of fiction and memoir and wrote while Jim searched the Internet for photography sites, deepening his interest and knowledge of the art, just like he had appreciated jazz for many years, leading to learning to play the saxophone. As we sat together, day and night, I read him my stories and he showed me beautiful photographs. We could always make each other laugh or appreciate something beautiful.In spite of his horrific stages of decline, there was an undercurrent of sweetness to that time together, in social isolation. But when he stopped looking at his iPad one evening in the hospital and just sat there, immobile, and the doctor announced her invasive lung surgery to save his life, we both said to each other, “I have a sick feeling in my stomach.” “Me, too.” That was the last thing we said to each other. The surgery was a failure. He died the next evening. The last tangible item Jim lost was his beloved Miata. It gave him such pleasure to drive with the top down. I mostly drove him to and from the hospital to see his doctors and drove during hospitalizations in my lunky blue Honda CRV, the same car owned by everyone on my street and parking lots everywhere. But for his last hospital visit for a regular blood procedure, Jim was feeling well enough to drive himself. It was on that visit, with the wonderful wind in his face with the top down on a sunny day, his sense of bliss in his Miata, that his blood pressure plummeted and it ended up to be the beginning of the end. That was his last hospitalization. He died there quickly on July 7.But what Jim lost the most was his family, his sons Noah and Sam, with the best father anyone could ask for and the best children a father would want. He was the best husband I could ever ask for, telling me he loved me every single day, wishing me a Shabbat shalom every Friday night. We were both atheists with Jewish souls. Jim will always be our family long after the saxophone, the jazz, the photographs and car are gone. Maybe one of us will take up photography, but never with Jim’s passion. It was very instrumental in his interest in people. It was always people in groups that he photographed: at rallies, demonstrations, parades and marathons. Anywhere where people connected.And seeing you all here, people who knew and loved Jim, I know that you all will take a part of Jim with you as well. He loved people, he never judged. In Yiddish they call a truly good, generous and moral person a mensch. Jim was a mensch.In Proust’s words,“Time Regained,” we all seek to retrieve time, but we never will. Only fleeting memories. In Proust’s words: Remembrance of things past. When you say life is short, really mean it. For all we really have is time and our memories of time regained.And in this very moment, a moment that still exists as I speak, l recount it as a dream, a nightmare really, and when I wake up, he’ll walk through the front door with his beat- up leather back pack and a sweet smile, as always, saying “Hello”.“Thank you for being so brave,” he says now, as many times before, while he stands here behind me, watching.“You’re the brave one,” I reply, as he always was.Jim Ennis, May his Memory be a Blessing.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Jim's Memorial Service at Tufts September 2015

First I’d like to thank the Tufts Community, especially John Libassi, the department administrator for sociology, for helping to facilitate the establishment of Jim’s scholarship memorial for students rsearching social justice.
You were Jim’s coworkers, colleagues, family, friends and students and he missed you all terribly when his illness made him so immunosuppressant that he couldn’t have visitors for most of the two years he was sick with a form of blood cancer and two bone marrow transplants as the first failed after six months. The second seemed to be better at first but quickly declined. He seemed to be getting better in June, even drove his beloved Miata to his last visit, when his blood pressure suddenly dropped and he was gone by the next day, July 7. We were all shocked. His doctors never called him terminal and kept our hopes high until the end.
I am grateful for the cards, flowers and good wishes from you all, as well as the flow of spontaneous kindness in the sweet things people said about Jim at his funeral.
Jim loved his job. Not many people can say that. He loved his colleagues, support staff and students, who he cared about devotedly to help light their way to a meaningful future.
Through out his illness, Jim remained calm, thoughtful and appreciative.
His first loss was the ability to play his saxophone, losing his breath early on.
Then he pursued his growing interest in photography on his iPad. When he felt he was getting better, he purchased a large amount of photography equipment that he never got to use as he had tremors and couldn’t stand or walk without a cane in his last months.
Jim had many sociological interests, but his main one was in social analysis of networks like musicians, artists and scientists.
Jim was also fascinated by Proust, frequently reading aloud to me excerpts and two translations.
A quote my nephew, Ezra, found on the internet cited by Jim, of either Proust, in Time Regained, or his biographer:
And in the end“… the poet was right when he spoke of the ‘mysterious threads’ which are broken by life. But the truth, even more, is that life is perpetually weaving fresh threads which link one individual and one event to another, and that these threads are crossed and recrossed, doubled and redoubled to thicken the web, so that between any slightest point of our past and all the others a fresh network of memories gives us an almost infinite variety of communicating paths to choose from.”
We all here are points of intersection, joined together to celebrate Jim’s life, to create new threads and webs and pass along some of Jim’s love of life and learning. I read somewhere that the cost of love is grief and that hardship does not just cause PTSD, but changes survivors in positive ways, too, leading to more empathy, wisdom and sharing of oneself with others. I hope that will be true for me and my family and all of you here in this network.
Without Jim, I feel cut in half, left with one arm and one leg and half a brain. Like a deep scar, I imagine all will grow back stunted but as a better, more empathic, forgiving and kind person like Jim.
Jim was not judgmental. He was a gentle soul who let things go, quickly giving people the benefit of the doubt, seeing things from their point of view. He was very forgiving. I hope that with his death, I can change to be more like him, to carry within me the qualities that made him Jim, to keep him alive in my behavior and soul. That is my hope.
Jim and I met as graduate students in the department of Psychology and Social Relations at Harvard and went opposite ways in our program. I went on to be a clinical psychologist and Jim a sociologist. I immersed myself in the psychology of individuals and families and Jim immersed himself in, among other things, social network analysis. Both of us studied people in very different ways. My job was to change people for the better. His was to represent people as they were and find their connections.
I think Jim saw the world in that way. He always kept in touch with old friends. He kept all of his connections through life, over time, even over long times and distances. He was very socially connected in an emotional and intellectual kind of way.
As a former psychologist, I am now a writer of fiction and memoir and wrote and published while Jim searched the Internet for photography sites, deepening his interest and knowledge of the art, just like he had appreciated jazz for many years, leading to learning the saxophone. As we sat together, day and night, over two years, minus the numerous hospitalizations. I’d read him my stories and he would show me beautiful photographs. We could always make each other laugh or appreciate something beautiful.
In spite of his horrific, tortuous, unimaginable array and stages of decline, there was an undercurrent of sweetness to that time together, in social isolation. But when he stopped looking at his iPad and just sat there, immobile, in his hospital bed, and the doctor announced her procedure to save his life, we both said to each other, “I have a sick feeling in my stomach.” That was the last thing we said to each other. The surgery was a failure. He died the next evening.
At the end of his life, Jim had come around to professionalizing himself as a photographer. Even as he lay dying, boxes and boxes arrived that we left unopened in his study. It was only after he died that we learned of photography equipment, including many cameras, all ready for his next career. It felt as if he could only get the right combination of photography equipment, I imagine he thought, if the doctors can’t save my life, maybe photography will. It represented his hope to heal.
The last tangible item Jim lost was his beloved Miata. It gave him such pleasure driving with the top down. I mostly drove him to and from the hospital see his doctors and drove during hospitalizations in my lunky blue Honda CRV, the same car owned by everyone on my street and parking lots everywhere. But for his last hospitalization for a regular blood procedure, he was feeling well enough to drive himself. It was on that visit, with the wonderful wind in his face with the top down on a sunny day, his sense of bliss in his Miata, that his blood pressure plummeted and it ended up to be the beginning of the end.
But what Jim lost the most was his family, his sons Noah and Sam, with the best father anyone could ask for and the best children a father would want and for me the best husband I could ever ask for, telling me he loved me every single day. Jim will always be our family long after the saxophone, the jazz, the photographs and car are gone. Maybe one of us will take up photography, but never with Jim’s passion. It was very instrumental in his interest in people. It was always people he photographed: at rallies, demonstrations, parades and marathons. Anywhere where people connected.
And seeing you all here, people who knew and loved Jim, I know that you all will take a part of Jim with you as well. He loved people, he never judged. In Yiddish they call a truly good, generous and moral person a mensch. Jim was a mensch.
In Proust’s words,“Time Regained,” we all seek to retrieve time, but we never will. Only fleeting memories. In Proust’s words: Remembrance of things past.
When you say life is short, really mean it. For all we really have is time and our memories of time regained.
And in this very moment, a moment that still exists as I speak, l recount it as a dream, a nightmare really, and when I wake up, he’ll walk through the front door with his beat up leather back pack and a sweet smile, as always, saying “Hello”.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Harp

I have been mostly stoic about my husband's illness. Numb really. But in a hallway in the entrance to the hospital elevators, a woman was playing the harp, one note at a time. Suddenly, tears were streaming down my face and I had to hold myself back from sobbing. Her music cut right through to my soul. I thanked her. I let it sink in: nothing will ever be the same.

Missing

It's just a dream, a nightmare really, and when I wake up, he'll walk through the door with his beat up leather backpack and a sweet smile, as always

Monday, September 12, 2016

That Day

On September 11, 2001, my children, then 9 and 11, watched TV as the planes hit, the buildings crumbled, and people jumped. They stared speechlessly, watching it over and over. I didn't know what to say, except to stop watching it. That was enough. They couldn't eat for days, but they never said a thing about it, to this day.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Towers

After a childhood filled with Holocaust stories, I swore I would never tell my children of the Holocaust for as long as possible. Then I saw my 9 year old son staring mesmerized in front of the TV watching the towers fall and fall.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Beginning of the End

We know the drill. It seems to be getting more frequent. Packing for the hospital in the middle of the night, knowing the next morning with the doctor will lead to admission. The doctors seem as puzzled about what is going on as we are.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Presence of Loss

In my dream we are in a small version of the house I grew up in, crowded with beds of old people, and I follow him in the darkness, feeling his presence and his loss all at once.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

I Wish He Could Surprise Me

By walking through the door. Out of the blue, one evening, like he used to after work. It's been a year since he died.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Alone

The time around the funeral is a blur. The months after I went to daily yoga at what turned out to be a sort of cult. It kept me in my body. After that, I stopped moving for months and numbed myself in front of the TV. My mind still can't think, can't write, can't read. I am trying a new psychiatrist. Maybe the answer is new medications. I am desperate. The scariest feeling is that no one can help me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Missing You

I lost you, a year ago today. I who literally rose from the Holocaust ashes of my grandmother. I am her namesake. How did my parents go on after all of those losses? Parents? Siblings? Children? I have spent this last year in an anxious daze having lost only you. Only you, the love of my life, after two years of struggling together in and out of the hospital with your blood cancer and transplants that left you so immunosuppressed we couldn't have friends over. I had to get rid of my potted plants. I could no longer garden. You became so frail, like an old man, with a cane and a wheel chair when we visited the hospital. I have scattered some photos of you around the house, but they each bring as much pain as solace. Reminders of my loss. My parents had no pictures. Everything had been lost. Maybe it was easier that way. I live in a house full of reminders of you, your possessions, your books. I get weary of trying to give more away. It takes so much out of me. Both to keep and to part. It all comes down to loss. My parents' solace came from carrying on their belief in God and Orthodox Jewish rituals. I don't know how to hold onto you at all.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

2015 Memory I Don't Really Remember At All

From Facebook July 5, 2015

July 5, 2015
One nurse says he's just sedated in a medical coma and will awaken rested, sleeping beauty. Another says comas are forever. It's a myth anyone survives. Fuck all of you nurses who raise false hope and don't know the what the hell they are talking about. They are all myths, myths, myths. If by chance they do survive, they will never be the same again.


This was supposedly my Facebook entry on that date. I remember things very differently. He died on July 7, 2015, but awakened that July 7th morning at home on a beautiful summer day and felt well enough to drive himself to the hospital for his blood treatments. In my memory, he drove into Boston with the top down in his blue Miata, ecstatic with the sun in his face. He loved driving that car. His blood pressure suddenly plummeted during treatment, there was an attempt at surgery that failed and he remained unconscious when we removed him that night from life support. He was gone that fast. That is my memory.

I suppose I can order his medical record to find out the truth, but what is the point? I like to think that he went that fast, that he just went from a happy morning to death at night. I don't remember days. I remember a call from his doctor in the afternoon for the whole family to come in. I know it took weeks until we could get a friend to drive his car back home from the parking garage, so I know that morning did exist. That happy morning sometime in July.

My sister-in-law reminded me that I told her before they put him into a medically induced coma that I said to him "I have a really bad feeling about this" and he said, "I do, too." Did all of that happen in one day?

I miss the sound of the coffee grinder early in the morning and the smell of fresh brew. A friendly good morning each day. A "I love you, Glo" every evening. I miss you, Jim, love of my life every moment of every day. July 7, 2016 will be one year. I still can't imagine how I will go on.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

DAY 15 STEM CELL TRANSPLANT: FEAR

It's 3AM and I awoke suddenly in a sweat with a sick feeling in my stomach. I kept telling him how good he looked with no hair earlier yesterday and he did but he really is a cancer patient now and I am sick to my stomach. All the children's poems in the world aren't going to change that. I just want to go back in time, but here I am in a frightening adulthood with adult poems everywhere that are relevant to my life, unfortunately, pretentious or not.  For the record, I love the complexity of adult poetry, I'm just mad at a couple of poets.

He and I have been together for over 33 years. I can't imagine life without him. My father died in February and my mother keeps keening "we were together 65 years." I can't imagine my sons' reactions, my fear it will ruin their lives. They have such wonderful, intense, intellectual conversations I can only marvel at silently. I could never take his place. Maybe he will live, but maybe he won't. It's 50-50, though I find that hard to believe. He looked good yesterday. He looked good. He did. He did not look on his deathbed. Sleeping meds are helping. He will have his transfusion Tuesday and I will see my psychiatrist Wednesday if they don't fuck up which they often do. I will call on Monday to confirm.

I will not get through this without meds. And writing. Writing calms me. I don't know how or why. It organizes my thinking so it's not so overwhelming. And it's magic and kismet, too. If I write it down it will turn out OK. Psychological research has shown that when people write about their traumas, including the Holocaust, their immune system is stronger after the writing than before. We were meant to write as a coping skill.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

DAY 14: CANCER TRANSPLANT

Good day. J not sleeping at all by early afternoon. Cried over the death of our 13 year old cat Snowy. I shielded my emotions which I'm getting better and better at. Skyping his brother in Paris. It's a wordless day for me. No writing inspiration yet. How do you keep a promise to write a story a day when you have no words?  I wrote two stories about Lydia Davis yesterday, but they were about hers and Kafka's stories, not mine.  I'll think it over. I hate to break promises even to myself. It's hard to find words when you are shielding your emotions. We ordered an Amazon shaver and cut off all his remaining hair. He still looks like him, with a baby head.

Friday, June 28, 2013

DAY 13 - 2: SELF-PITY, CANCER AND THE HOLOCAUST

I have never been one for self-pity. The opposite. From a very young age I felt pity for my Holocaust survivor parents and their relatives who died. My whole purpose in life was to make them happy, to undo the damage. I always felt I had a lucky life in contrast. Even now, I get exhausted but I never ask "Why me?"  Why not me when it happens to so many? I feel it was inevitable in some way. Better me or my husband than our children. I don't know the stats. I haven't had the energy to do research yet. There are so many different kinds of cancer, even bone marrow cancer alone. I can't understand what I read. Focusing on research always helps me. More than reading poetry which for the most part I admit I find boring. Research, on the other hand, fascinates me. The facts over the naval-gazing. I'm bad to admit this, I know. I have a shelf of poetry I'm supposed to like. I only like humorous children's poetry: The Owl and the Pussycat and The Seal's Lullaby and some poems for adults about animals like Naomi Shihab Nye's The Flying Cat. These are my favorite poems. So when things settle a little and J's baby stem cells start to grow, I will do research into this horrible illness and what factors up his chances for survival. Self-pity is pointless. My fellow daughter of Holocaust survivors and I talk about the fact that we would lose any suffering contests in our households. We were trained young that our problems were miniscule. Even this, cancer, is miniscule compared to the Holocaust.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DAY 11 STEM CELL TRANSPLANT

We arrived early and hung out together until late afternoon while he got his infusions into the port in his chest. All the blood counts I don't understand are at the lowest low, on the brink of a transfusion, but if he can hold out, the stem cells are more likely to kick in. So we put it off a week and finagled a day for a doctor's appointment I sorely need that is not a priority but if I don't do it, I won't hold up. For now, I can handle it all. I am superwoman.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

DAY 10 STEM CELL TRANSPLANT

Tuesday. I can hardly speak with fatigue and frustration. My husband looks dead lying on the couch sleeping all day. He will have a transfusion tomorrow for temporary energy.  I despise dealing with dishes. I'm starting to do them by hand like my mother did when I was little. It's more comforting than all the bending and mess. Then I can dishwash the racks occasionally. Such trivia to keep someone alive.

Monday, June 24, 2013

DAY 9 STEM CELL TRANSPLANT

J is getting weaker and weaker and is scheduled for a blood transfusion on Wednesday or maybe tomorrow. Meanwhile we are in a heat wave and my car air conditioner doesn't work. Hopefully they will fix it today. He's faint a lot and this is unbearable. Still struggling with the Roomba. It cleans well though erratically but is difficult to empty. Still, it keeps the dust levels down which is crucial for J's health. It can get under couches a vacuum cleaner can't. I sound like a sales person. It's hard to have to be the strong one with a partner who is so weak and sick. No excuses for me. No time for me. My whole life is focused on eradicating his cancer.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

DAY 8 STEM CELL TRANSPLANT

We're both tired, napping on a Sunday. Short medical visit and then a long trip home due to the obstacle course of a marathon and tons of bridge work between Boston (the hospital) and Cambridge (near where we live). J was told he will probably have a transfusion on Wednesday's hospital visit and feel better. Meanwhile, he's still like an old man. We can't even go food shopping together because he can't be around a lot of people germ-wise. He wears a mask and gloves at the hospital.  Wednesday will be a long visit, many hours and I'll shuttle between the cafeteria and the infusion activity and some writing.  The hours really drag but less so when I hang out with my husband. He continues to be my best entertainment, through it all. He said he overheard some guy say he felt fabulous after the transfusion for five days and then went back to feeling like shit again. I have less and less confidence in the "procedures" as they proceed. The cheeriness in the hospital is bizarrely contradictory, all these cute little angels welcoming the patients to the Gates of Hell where they will be tortured.