As an oncologist, I deal with death on an almost daily basis. The hope – and, in many cases, the reality – is that cancer gets cured and death is pushed back as far as possible, into the distant future. When that isn’t the case, though, part of my job is counseling people on how to handle the reality of death, how to handle life when it is about to come to an end. I work with patients and with their families to get them through that time, with as little suffering as possible. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be there for them, in that time of vulnerability and powerlessness. I can make a difference during that time, and it is humbling to be able to do so.

The thing with cancer is that often, we can predict – to some degree – when death will occur. When death is predictable, there is time for last hugs and kisses, last moments of hand-holding, final goodbyes. And goodbyes are so, so important.

A friend of mine is hurting right now.  Jennie is about my age and she lives in New York. She has two young daughters, about the ages of my own children. Her husband died on Sunday, unexpectedly, with no time for goodbyes.

I’ve had a very hard time with this, harder than I expected. I think that many of us in this community – the food blogging community, and yes, the Twitter community – are struggling with grief and sadness for Jennie’s loss. This letter describes so well the feelings that so many of us are experiencing.

I told my husband I loved him yesterday morning when I walked out of the house to head to work. I tell him that every morning, but yesterday was different. I told him emphatically, with emotion, not just because it was habit but because I meant it.

I told him I loved him as if it were the last time he would hear it.





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33 Responses to “hurting”

  1. 1
    Macaroni Mama — August 9, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

    This made me tear up. Thanks for the reminder to tell those we love how much we love them.

  2. 2
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — August 9, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

    I really appreciate your heartfelt and honest post, MJ… I have also felt an overpowering sense of grief and have really struggled with this news, and I think you found the words that I have not been able to. Please give Jennie an extra hug for me later this week.

  3. 3
    Gail — August 9, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

    Can’t wait to see you and hug you.

  4. 4
    Barbara | Creative Culinary — August 9, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

    You’ve put into words what so many of us are feeling. Not just the overwhelming sadness for Jennie and her family but the sense of reality this brings; how quickly those we love can be gone in an instant, without warning. How we need to share those words of love everyday and really, really mean it.

    I still tell my grown children, I will love you forever’ from our favorite book from their childhood. Right now, I’m more aware that forever could mean just a day.

    I am sure that your presence will be of great comfort to Jennie, please do let her know it is carried to her on the wings of many, many more.

  5. 5
    DessertForTwo — August 9, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

    I’m so glad you wrote this. I’ve been so upset over this news. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day yesterday. I did the same as you—told people I loved them with extra emphasis and emotion.

    I was so upset that we almost didn’t go to our bowling league last night. We bowl with a group of middle-aged mentally challenged men. I just didn’t think I could put a smile on my face and be cheery around those guys with this news. Well, we went anyway because we decided distraction was better than thinking about it all night, and you’d never guess—one of the guys told us he was going to propose to his girlfriend. It warmed my heart so much to hear that.

    I know we can all bond together and do something to help Jennie through this.

    I just can’t stop thinking about what it must feel like to be in her shoes.



  6. 6
    Kristen — August 9, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

    Hugs – I think it is sad that Jennie has to suffer the loss of a husband for the rest of us to be reminded to hold our family even tighter than before. I wish we could live that way, remembering every day is so precious.
    Thanks for pouring out your heart to us. My heart is aching for her family too, so very much.

  7. 7
    Lana @ Never Enough Thyme — August 9, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

    When I was growing up every time me or my sisters walked out the door the last thing my Mama said was “I love you.” Every night when we went to bed the last thing she said to us was “I love you.” Every time we end a phone conversation today, the last thing she says is “I love you.” No matter how difficult the day may have been, how tense the phone conversation may be it always ends with “I love you.” I remember asking Mama once when I was a teenager why she insisted on saying “I love you” every single, solitary time I left the house. She said it was because that might be the last time she ever saw me and the last thing she wanted to say to me was “I love you.”

    All these years later, every time I talk to my daughter and grandchildren on the phone do you know what the last thing I say to them is. Yes, you know.

    My heart is breaking for Jennie and her two little girls. I pray that they will feel the strength and support that the food blogging community is pouring out to them and that God will give them comfort and peace.

  8. 8
    Michael Procopio — August 9, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

    All losses are hard, but sudden ones like Jennifer’s are much more difficult to deal with precisely because there is no time to prepare or say goodbye.

    I do not know her or her family, but I have been thinking about what happened since I first heard the news. I called my parents and said the same thing you said to your husband. Emphatically.

  9. 9
    Wendy Read - Sunchowder — August 9, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

    Beautiful post. I also reached out to my own husband and told him how much I loved him. Jennifer’s loss has been so much on my mind. It is lovely that she has the support of all of her virtual family at this time. Thank you so much for posting this. I don’t know Jennie well ( I have her tomato jam recipe here to try amungst my papers from last year)–please give her love from me when you see her.

  10. 10
    Fuji Mama — August 9, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

    May we all remember to tell our loved ones today how much they mean to us. Thank you for putting this into words. XO

  11. 11
    Kelsey/TheNaptimeChef — August 9, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

    A terrific post Merry. This news was SO upsetting and you have done a wonderful job putting into words what all of us feel. Look forward to seeing you soon!

  12. 12
    Elizabeth @ Saffron Lane — August 9, 2011 @ 5:01 pm

    Such a lovely, heartfelt post. I don’t know Jennifer personally, but I was almost brought to my knees after hearing this news. Most of us have lost someone close, leaving a massive void in our new lives. However, I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose someone so suddenly, especially a spouse. My heart is definitely with her during this unbearably difficult time.

    On a side note, thank you for being a supportive, empathetic oncologist. When I lost my brother to cancer at 36, I couldn’t find a doctor around who even began to try to understand, much less care. Thank you for being the exception.

  13. 13
    Lana — August 9, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

    I was shocked and stunned, and my heart clenched as I was reading that Twitter stream. Jennie and her girls have been on my mind a lot since then.
    I am in Serbia with my girls, visiting my family and taking care of my mom, who is seriously ill. We are hoping and putting all our trust in the miracles of medicine (after all, my dad is a retired MD), but I hope that no matter what, I’ll have time to kiss my mother goodbye. Jennie did not have that chance and I am really sad for her.
    Thank you for writing this post and bringing forth all the feelings I had churning inside.

  14. 14
    JulieD — August 9, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

    My heart aches for Jennie. I’m so glad you can go and be with her this week. Please give her a hug for me.

  15. 15
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — August 9, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

    Thank you for saying what so many of us can’t put into words right now. XOX

  16. 16
    Snippets of Thyme — August 9, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

    I don’t know Jennie but the overwhelming pain felt on Twitter yesterday reached me. I don’t understand this kind of loss…the only small thought that goes through my heart and mind is that everyone who was touched by this tragedy will somehow make their own lives deeper and more meaningful for this world. Otherwise, I just don’t understand it.

  17. 17
    Caneel — August 9, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

    I can’t imagine having the kind of job you have. It takes a special kind of person to do it. I’ve been so heartbroken for her since I found out yesterday. She is close to my age as well, and I have two daughters. Watching her last dance video takes my breath away. My prayers remain with her – thanks for this post.

  18. 18
    Julia — August 9, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

    I told my husband the same yesterday. And gave him an extra kiss. Jennie’s husbands passing really is shaking up the food blogging/twitter community, it’s so heart breaking.

  19. 19
    wenderly — August 9, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

    Beautifully said.

    We lost my FIL 7 years ago July to a massive heart attack. It was so devastating for all of us. The sudden jolt of having a loved one literally ripped away was so confusing and hard to digest. It took a very long time to “say goodbye”. But time has healed our hearts. We still miss him dearly, but we can breathe and laugh and tell wonderful stories of Papoo knowing that he is smiling down upon us.


  20. 20
    Cheryl Arkison — August 9, 2011 @ 7:32 pm

    You’re right, this is so shocking for so many. We do feel a connection, whether we’ve bet Jennie and Mikey or not. It must hit home because so many of us are in a similar age/family way. And because we feel like we know each other just that little bit better. Either way, it hurts, it sucks, and yes, we all are holding our loved ones that much closer these days.
    Big hugs to you.

  21. 21
    David Dadekian — August 9, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

    Sadly true and beautifully put. I saw Jennifer’s tweet Sunday night and thought something sad happened, but nothing like the truth. I got up Monday, played with my daughtera a bit before turning on my computer and I thought I’d go straight to the @JenniferPerillo page to see what happened since I saw all these condolences in my Twitter stream. I clicked to watch the video clip, thinking, oh no her dad died, grandfather’s last dance or something. As I watched, it slowly dawned on me. I said what the fuck, no, immediately went back to Twitter and saw the terrible confirmation. I made my wife watch it only because she saw I was so upset. I took the rest of the week off to go on vacation with my family, a vacation I was skipping because I have too much work. Work’s not worth it.

    Every timr we need to say I love you with full strength and meaning.

  22. 22
    Maggie at Eat Boutique — August 10, 2011 @ 8:35 am

    Thanks for sharing, MJ.

  23. 23
    Mary — August 10, 2011 @ 9:10 am

    Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this. It’s another reminder that we all need to live our lives to the fullest, cherishing those we love, doing the things we love, and truly appreciating everything life has to offer. Really live.

  24. 24
    Paula — August 10, 2011 @ 9:54 am

    Jenny’s devastating loss is shared by so many in a community that both know her and her family personally and by those who have never met her but somehow, in some intangible way feel connected. Since hearing of this heart-breaking news, Jenny and her family have been in my thoughts and prayers and will remain their for some to come. My sister (and her two children) lost her husband to an unexpected and sudden heart attack several years ago. No one had a chance to say their final *I love you* to him. No one had a chance to hug him close and say goodbye. My heartfelt and deepest condolences go out to Jenny and her children, to all her relatives and to you and all her friends who share in this loss and who are supporting her through it.

  25. 25
    Elizabeth — August 10, 2011 @ 11:07 am

    I feel the same. I am hugging my kids so much more, and kissing my husband that one second longer. It just makes you realize how truly fragile life is and how unexpected things can arise. We should all be feeling a little closer to our families right now and giving our strength to Jennie and hers.

  26. 26
    amelia from z tasty life — August 10, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

    I cannot go to bed without making peace, say goodbye without saying I love you, nor see someone I love everytime as if it were the last one… Too many times have I played a story much similar to that of your friends’ in my mind. But that makes my time with them stronger, better, more intense and real. Thanks for sharing and so sorry for your grief, big hug.

  27. 27
    Chez Us — August 10, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

    We were just talking about the same thing Monday night … there is never too many times to say I love you. We always kiss good-bye (or as we like to say “until next time” as good-bye is so final) in the morning, even if we argue or are having a bad day; because, you never know, it could be the last time, and you will want that last time to linger for eternity.

    I, too, am having such a difficult time with Jennie’s loss. So unfair and so unpredictable. Just reminds us all how important our lives and relations are – should nurture them everyday, just because we can.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely post and your feelings with us all. ~ Denise

  28. 28
    Di — August 11, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

    The following from Mary Anne Radmacher’s many inspiring works gives me strength even when I don’t believe there is any left to find in the world….

    Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

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  30. 29
    Casie — August 12, 2011 @ 12:16 am

    as I am going thru here adding different sites, I keep seeing Jennie’s name pop up! What a wonderful group of friends! My heart goes out to her!

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  32. 30
    IlinaP — August 12, 2011 @ 9:05 pm

    You are so right…it seems cliche to treat everyday as our last, but truthfully, that’s how it goes. Lovely to be with you today.

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