Sep. 20th, 2009

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I'm at my parents' house, doing some prep work for class tomorrow and helping before my parents have guests over to celebrate the new year (Rosh Hashanah).

A moment ago the phone rang. It was my mom's first cousin, calling with very bad news. Just hours ago, his older brother suddenly passed away. He apparently hadn't been feeling well for a couple days, but fairly abruptly had severe trouble breathing, which was assumed to be asthma. Rushed to the hospital, he was put on breathing support. The doctors couldn't revive him. He was taken off life support as quickly as he had been put on it. The funeral is Tuesday.

Joel had been a quiet, unassuming rock for his family. The middle son of three, he had stalwartly been, with his wife, the longtime caregivers for his aging parents (his father, whose unveiling was just last month, died last fall), my mom's aunt and uncle. His older brother, a highly respected university professor and dean, had had to relocate away from his native Milwaukee many years ago for his post. His younger brother, somewhat of a playboy, has lived here and there, but has never felt a sense of responsibility. Joel, a hardworking husband and father, had put aside his own dreams in order to "do the right thing" and take care of his parents. My parents, who were in Milwaukee for the unveiling and who had had a wonderful visit with Joel and his family, were just beginning to appreciate what a warm, gentle and good man Joel was and were looking forward to many more visits (ironically for happier occasions). Now they are planning another trip to Milwaukee, but for a funeral instead of a reunion.

To say we are in shock doesn't even scratch the surface.


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