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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.

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