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In Memoriam, My Husband Bruce Israel, 58 Years Old

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Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 11.56.37 PMOver the years, I’ve pierced this blog’s professional veil to share glimpses of my personal life: my ongoing struggle to balance parenthood and practice, my father’s passing, my daughters’ growing up and my oldest’s departure for college last August. Yet I’ve rarely, if ever, blogged about or even mentioned my husband — which come to think of it, is odd because it was actually Bruce’s idea to develop MyShingle as a blog (rather than a static portal for everything solo, which was characteristic of websites circa 2000). In any event, below are a few of my comments from my remarks at Bruce’s funeral last Friday.  By the way, this is the hardest blog post I’ve ever written.
My husband, Bruce Israel was the silent partner in my practice. A talented software engineer who worked at companies like Google and Amazon and regularly received weekly phone calls from headhunters avid to place him (they kept calling even when he told them he had brain cancer), Bruce kept my firm’s technology operating seamlessly and securely. Magically, the operating systems, browsers and apps on my Mac and phone routinely updated; I didn’t realize until after Bruce fell ill that the new versions didn’t install automatically, but were the result of his late-night dalliances with my machines. Over the years, Bruce’s skills gave me an edge.  Bruce introduced me to HTML, which enabled me to launch a firm website in 1994.  And he installed Slashcode – a first-generation blogging platform – so that I could set up the first version of MyShingle and join the first wave of legal bloggers.

Bruce’s support for my work wasn’t limited to technology.  He handled his share of child-duty – picking our daughters up from school, studying with them for tests, bragging about their prodigious math skills (his genes) and taking them sightseeing when I was fortunate enough to bring my family with me to business events all around the country and the world. Because Bruce worked for employers while I worked for myself, truthfully, I had more flexibility and so I can’t say like some that we shared child and home responsibilities 50-50. But so what? Bruce balanced me in other ways – things that roiled me rolled off his back and he talked me down from countless bridge-burning e-mails.

What’s more, I never much cared about a 50-50 split because Bruce gave 100 percent on the things that really counted.  When it came to supporting my firm, my ambitions and unconventional (and let’s face it, often rash or foolish career choices), Bruce had my back, fully and unequivocally – not just with words, but with deeds. When I started my firm after I’d been laid off and money was tight, Bruce bought me a $1500 Toshiba laptop that we really couldn’t afford because of my constant complaints about being tethered to our desktop in the dreary basement. I’d been too afraid to invest even that much in my practice because I wasn’t sure that I could make it work – but Bruce had faith in me before I had it in myself.  When Bruce was diagnosed with brain cancer last July, leaving me as the sole breadwinner to support our family and two private school tuitions, I panicked – but he never worried.  Bruce was sure that I could manage and so I did. When someone completely and thoroughly believes in you, it’s really that simple.

Throughout our marriage, Bruce made few demands. But there’s one that preference that he insisted on while choosing between inscriptions on our wedding invitations that forever stands out.  A typically besotted bride-to-be (though to be fair, I avoided Bride-zilla’ism) I favored the classically romantic This is my beloved and my beloved is mine , while Bruce strongly preferred This is my beloved, this is my friend. I deferred – not so much because I liked Bruce’s choice but rather because I didn’t want to seem too bossy.

Of course, over the years, I realized that Bruce was right after all. Throughout the chaos of our 23-year, two-career, two-child and two-pup marriage, let’s just say that Bruce didn’t always feel like my beloved, nor I his, in the middle of a messy, chaotic kitchen with sticky counters not properly wiped down, or screaming (usually me) over something trivial like a weak wireless Internet connection or packing up the car for a trip. But every single day of our marriage, Bruce was my friend, my partner, my sounding board and, in Billy Joel’s words, my home .

Over the past week, even as I am truly, deeply and utterly grateful and and awed humbled by the outpouring of generosity by online and offline friends and family members who have comforted and supported my daughters and me during these tough times (I will be writing thank you notes for the next 25 years), I can’t help but feel a pang each time I reflexively look for Bruce to share my amazement. After all, he’s the first person with whom I’d typically marvel over good fortune like this – and he’s not here.  At times like these, I miss my beloved husband, but most of all, I miss my friend.

  • Carolyn, I can only imagine how hard that post was to write. I had not heard this news, as my online time has been fairly limited lately. I am so sorry for your loss. Even in this difficult time, you continue to inspire.

  • BarbaraNelson

    I have loved the life and obvious joy in all the family pictures you’ve shared over the years, and it makes it easy to feel how huge your loss is. (no, I do know I can’t understand it, but, really- your joy comes through) I know Bruce’s spirit will be with you always, and I can only hope that the happiness in your past with him carries forward. In a way, your post has inspired me to be a more conscious partner to my husband, and that is a gift indeed. Thank you for sharing, and I think that phrase “may his memory be a blessing” is what I wish for you and yours.

  • Carolyn – Words aren’t enough for situations like this. We lost my dad when he was 57 and I was a 1L. I pray for you, your daughters, and your whole family.

  • Bob Ambrogi

    Beautifully written. My heart goes out to you, your daughters and to your entire family.

  • L. Max Taylor

    I cannot fathom what it must be like to lose your husband and summon the strength to write about it in the days that follow. I wish you the very strength you show here, and hope that you will be able to bear the sadness you and your family feel. Godspeed.

  • Bruce Dorner

    Little can be said to make this transition easier for you and your daughters. I only hope that the love and caring of friends and family will help you through this challenge. Know that you can call or email at any time.

  • I’m sorry…it sounds like a great 23 years, and I’m sad to learn of its ending.

  • Josh brown

    Beautiful and touching post, Carolyn. I am so very sorry for your loss.

  • Your post brought tears to my eyes. What a great tribute. I feel as though I knew him through your eyes. Thanks, Carolyn.

  • Tamar Cerafici

    Aww shoot. This is sad. We often have images of our colleagues toiling away like a monk in a cell (or as one of my students more aptly put it, a veal in a pen). Thanks for reminding me that we toil in a community; life partners, children, pets, and other fauna create our lives. I’m glad you had this tender partnership.

  • Gillian Fattal

    Dear Carolyn, what a beautiful story of love and life. I am so sorry for your loss. Thinking of you and your daughters from Connecticut. Gillian, Sofia and Lila Fattal

  • Brittny Bottorff

    Carolyn, my thoughts and deepest condolences are with you and your family during this most difficult of times. The loss of such a beloved husband and friend must feel like a death of part of your own self, in a way. My husband lost both his parents when he was 24 (they were 55), and his grief was profound and overwhelming. But through the love and support of close friends and family, he did get by, one day at a time. While your own loss is unimaginably enormous, I hope that you can find some comfort in your fond memories of the life you and Bruce shared together. He sounds like he was an outstanding husband, father, and friend.

  • Alison Monahan

    Beautiful tribute. So sorry for your loss. Hugs!

  • Bob Kraft

    Carolyn, this is a wonderful tribute to Bruce. Hold on to those good memories. They will help carry you through the grief.

  • A beautiful tribute. My deepest condolences.

  • ODonnellSteve

    Beautiful. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Connie Crosby

    Carolyn, I am so very sad to hear about your husband. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  • Britt Lorish

    What a brave and beautiful tribute Carolyn. Thinking of you and your family during this difficult time.

  • Robert Millard

    Carolyn, that is one of the most beautiful tributes that I have ever read. My heart goes out to you.

  • Marguerite Friar

    Very sorry to learn about the loss of your husband and friend, Bruce. My best to you and your family during this painful and difficult time.

  • Thanks for sharing your profound loss with us. Keeping you in our prayers!

  • Michelle Lardbutt

    My husband (“Barry”) says that I have a big fat lard-butt. Do you agree?

  • Michelle Lardbutt

    Maybe she needs to marry Abdul Palestine (just for balance).

  • Curt Runger

    I’ve never commented on any of your blog posts, although I’ve followed you for years and I’m obsessed with your site, but that was a beautifully written tribute to Bruce. I’m so sorry for your loss. –Curt Runger

  • Oh Carolyn, I am so very sorry. I had no idea all of this was going on. My heart feels for yours as I can only imagine how heartbreaking this is for you and your girls. I will keep you in my thoughts, prayers and heart, and am sending you thoughts that resemble virtual hugs and love. Take care…

  • Leila Kanani

    Carolyn, I am so very sorry for your loss. This was beautifully written. I know it was not easy writing it….Hugs…

  • Eva Bruch

    Dear Carolyn, so sorry about this. They use to say we do no not appreciate what we have until we lose it. It’s clear that this is not your case. So good that you enjoyed every minute you were together.

  • David Slavin

    I had not spoken to Bruce since High School but we were friends back then. We were in the chess club and hung out during lunch. He was obviously the smartest person in the room even if he didn’t know it. His passing is a loss for us all.

  • Susan Deering

    What a beautifully expressed memoriam, Carolyn. I hope you don’t mind, but I shared this with my classmates on our alumni FB group, Clarkstown South, Class of 1974. Many of Bruce’s friends from “back in the day” did not know that he was ill or that the illness took his life. Many of them are posting their condolences. You may wish to read some of them. Bruce touched many lives over the years and we all share your loss. Again, my heartfelt condolences to you and your girls. Peace be with you. Susan Deering

  • I’m so sorry for your loss Carolyn. Thank you for sharing such a touching portrait of Bruce.

  • My sympathies Carolyn during this most difficult time! I pray that God covers and comforts you and the girls in a way that only he can. Remain strong and be blessed!

  • John Danahy

    Carolyn:

    Your post was beautiful. What a fitting tribute to a wonderful man!

    I met Bruce Israel in 7th grade. I don’t think that was a good year for him. In fact, it wasn’t a very good time for any and all of us who were trying to find our way through puberty and to desperately fit in with our peers at the same time. Some had it worst than others, however.

    Bruce tended to stand out and that was NOT a good thing in middle school. It was obvious that he was REALLY smart, but at the same time more than a little socially inept (at that time). That unfortunately left him open to ridicule and also bullying from some of his so called “peers”. Trust me, kids could be brutal back in the day.

    It was quite a lesson to myself to witness how he handled the situations that ensued. Bruce would utilize logic, reason and most effectively, humor to more often than not diffuse the situation. He became very good at it.

    Bruce and I travailed middle and high school as classmates, but not really friends. I mean, we were friendly, but he wasn’t someone I chose to hang out with, at that time. Maybe it was because I thought I was “cooler” than him (I was a bit of a jock), or perhaps because his clearly superior intellect made my teenage self feel inadequate. Probably some of both, which amuses and saddens me now.

    Indeed, I have a strong memory of sharing substantial time with Bruce at our five year H.S. reunion. We had a great conversation and I experienced the clear realization of how asinine it was of me to have felt the way I did previously. I expressed that to him and we laughed about it. Unfortunately, I never saw him again.

    A few years back Bruce and I became Facebook friends and occasionally entered into friendly debates on that forum. I trend to the conservative side, but always found him to be a fair minded person, willing to consider any cogent point. He was also unfailingly kind and respectful, even when ripping my position to shreds (LOL).

    I will miss him. My deepest sympathies to you and your girls.

    Warm regards,

    John Danahy
    CHSS Class of 1974
    johnjdanahy@gmail.com

  • Carolyn – I just noticed your post in my reader, and I was
    (and am) so sad. I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with you about your husband a number of times, and you always spoke so fondly of him. He sounded like a great guy. Saying goodbye to Bruce is the hardest thing you will ever do; and please know that I’ll be thinking of you during this incredibly difficult time. If there is anything I can do to lighten your load, please let me know.

    Sincerely,

    Mark Britton

  • Kurt Nachtman

    Carolyn, I’m very sorry for your loss. You and your family has my deepest condolences. I hope next year you can join mine & many other families of victims & survivors of brain cancer at the Race for Hope DC.

  • Javier

    A month that did not go through the blog and find suddenly this post, an incredible and unimaginable post.
    I’m sorry and remember that the important thing was the trip with your husband:

    Ithaka, Constantin Kavafis

    As you set out for Ithaka

    hope the voyage is a long one,

    full of adventure, full of discovery.

    Laistrygonians and Cyclops,

    angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

    you’ll never find things like that on your way

    as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

    as long as a rare excitement

    stirs your spirit and your body.

    Laistrygonians and Cyclops,

    wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

    unless you bring them along inside your soul,

    unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

    Hope the voyage is a long one.

    May there be many a summer morning when,

    with what pleasure, what joy,

    you come into harbors seen for the first time;

    may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

    to buy fine things,

    mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

    sensual perfume of every kind—

    as many sensual perfumes as you can;

    and may you visit many Egyptian cities

    to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

    Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

    Arriving there is what you are destined for.

    But do not hurry the journey at all.

    Better if it lasts for years,

    so you are old by the time you reach the island,

    wealthy with all you have gained on the way,

    not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

    Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

    Without her you would not have set out.

    She has nothing left to give you now.

    And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

    Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
    you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

    from Spain

  • Alex

    Carolyn –

    Very sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to your beloved and friend.

    Alex

  • Jennifer Sutherland Lubinski

    What is wrong with you? Truly, I’m curious.

  • Jennifer Sutherland Lubinski

    Very sorry for your loss, Carolyn. This is a beautiful tribute.

  • George D. Morgan

    So sorry to hear of your loss.

  • Cris Godinez

    Sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing a beautiful and touching tribute to a partner and friend.

  • Athena Inembolidis

    May his memory be eternal.

  • Mike Branch

    My best thoughts to you and your familly Thank you for all you have done for us.

  • Charlotte

    This is a beautiful tribute to Bruce. Thank you so much for sharing it. I hope for sunnier days ahead for you and your children.

  • Inspira Law

    I am so sorry to read of your loss, which you so eloquently – if painfully – shared with us. Our condolences and prayers are with you.

  • VMS

    Carolyn, I was shocked to just learn of Bruce’s passing. May his soul be bound in the bond of eternal life, and may you seek comfort in his memory.

  • Carolyn: I just started reading your blog at the suggestion of friends at LexBlog–they credit you with being the leading voice for solos and small firms–and your “I’m back” post drew my attention to this poignant “in memoriam” post. No words are sufficient to convey sympathy and condolences for your loss.

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