About Me

My wonderful husband died when I was 44 years old. Being widowed this young happens to less than 3% of married people. Writing through this loss one word at time helps me understand what I've lost and helps me continue to grow. It is how I have gradually recovered from such a severe loss. Research shows that you can benefit from taking just 15 minutes a day to write out your deepest feelings as a way of healing. On the right side of this blog, you'll see a tag for Exercises to Try. If you need some help knowing how to use writing to help heal yourself, I suggest you start there.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

No Gifts (at least not ones you can touch) Required

So how shall we celebrate Ken's birthday, coming up on December 14?

For starters, for anyone who still tunes in to my much neglected blog, how about if your gift to Ken this year is to remember him and post your remembrance here for others to share.

Don't be shy! Let's get it going.

Let's bring Ken to cyber-life on December 14 with a big birthday party right here!!!

But, you know that Ken would want you to be moderate, so please, no excessive drinking before you write in.


Anonymous said...

OK, here's something great I remember about Ken: He and I were sitting in the living room when I was visiting Evanston one summer, and we were talking about grown up things (like whether women shave their legs more in the summer than men shave their faces -- especially hirsute guys like Ken.)
Alec was sitting nearby, his eyes glazed over with boredom. Suddenly, Ken turned from me and said: "Quick, Alec! Name all the dinosaurs you can and we'll try to keep up."
Alec started screaming "Tyranosaurus Rex!" I screamed, "Stegasaurus!" And Ken lay down on his back, on the floor, and bellowed, "Triceratops(sp?)!!"
It was a beautiful thing. Happy Birthday Ken
Love, Hutch

Anonymous said...

I guess it is Ferdinand, Paul and Ken’s Birthday so, Happy Birthday J

Some of you recall that Ken’s story of Ferdinand inspired me to “go smell the roses.” I took time from work to visit the Botanical Gardens in Singapore where I bought an Orchid seedling and returned to Hong Kong to raise it up. Ken was inspired by the fact his story moved me to do this and told me so. Well Orchid seedlings are not easy to grow and they often succumb to infections and die. Mine was no exception.

Ken however inspired us to never give up and even after he had gone he was inspiring others. My Orchid seedling story continues…

On my next trip to Singapore I took a friend (called Evan interestingly) to visit the Botanical Gardens and told him about Ken. Evan was inspired so we both bought Orchid seedlings this time J A few weeks later, after returning to Hong Kong with my seedling, I emailed Evan to see if it had survived the long haul flight back to North America. Unfortunately Evan had forgotten his seedling in the hotel window in Singapore and it never made the trip. L Oops now I was two down and one to go…

Upon my return to Hong Kong I transplanted my little Orchid seedling and followed the instructions more closely than I had the first time. I felt I had to make this seedling work because if it died I would be zero for three and Ken wouldn’t like that.

Quickly the new seedling grew and took root but sure enough within a few weeks the infection returned. I watched it and did what I could but I knew I had to let nature take its course…

Now several weeks later, as we approach this birthday anniversary, I am pleased to announce that my seedling’s infection seems to be conquered and the little plant is green and growing again not even aware of the beautiful flower it someday will become. Ken would be pleased I didn’t give up.

Ken and Ferdinand’s little seedlings remind me that we inspire others (even after we are gone) often in ways we can’t even imagine. Take for example the immigrant chamber maid in Singapore who found Evan’s little Orchid growing in his hotel room window after his check out. She took it home, transplanted it and it grows happily in the middle of her home.

Maybe the Buddhists are right when they say souls never really die they just transfer to other sentient beings…Happy Birthday and Happy Holidays to you all.


Peter Nixon

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Ken! You always seemed to have it backwards Ken, for you were always the one giving to others. And sitting here thinking of Ken conjures an image of him smiling and reaching out trying to give me the same gift over and over--on his birthday and every day....the gift of being this wonderful example. As a bit of a hurricane myself, by nature, he offered me the best example of living well, of CALM, of balance, of peace. So when I think of Ken, I shift from a Category 5 to a mere tornado--and if I keep working on it and remember your example Ken, I may some day learn how to be a spring rain. Now, I never want to drive as slow as you did--you can't have everything, but I'm still going to try to be more like you, for sure. love, Helen

Anonymous said...

I remember one day Ken and I were working out of JCB’s downtown office and we talked about getting some lunch. For me, lunch usually consisted of two pieces of dry bread with a piece of dry chicken sandwiched in-between. However, whenever I had lunch with Ken, he always suggested restaurants that had soul. On this particular day, Ken suggested, and I agreed to go to what I think was one of his favorite restaurants, The Berghoff. I remember the walk over to the restaurant seemed like it took only a minute or two (in fact, it probably took 10 to 15 minutes). We had a great time. One minute we would be having a pithy conversation and then we would digress into something FAR less than “pithy.” As he seemed to do with everything, Ken savored every aspect of the lunch.

When The Berghoff announced its closing, many people asked my wife and me to go with them for one final meal. I declined all the invitations. I wanted to be able to say that the last meal I had at The Berghoff was with my great friend Ken.

Dan Ferdinand

Anonymous said...

Ken, You have given me the most amazing gift, enjoying time with friends and family at parks. Thanks to you I felt very at home with our new baby at "your" park, during our first outing as a new family. Now everytime I head out to a park I think of you and your smile plus adorable Alec peeking out from his backpack. You really set the tone for playtime at the park. Thank you for that ongoing gift! Your smile and warm welcome are a constant. I will make sure to share a Ken smile with someone daily, as a tribute to you! HELEN CONLON

Cameron said...

One of my favorite things about Ken, whom I knew mostly as a parent to Natalie and Alec while I babysat them for four years, was how he appreciated the chaos of life. There was one winter day in Evanston about three years ago when it had just snowed, and Nat and Alec and I were out after dark in the park next to the house, sledding down the hill. We were all completely soaked, something which most responsible babysitters would not allow to happen, but we were having a great time. Ken and Jill came home and Ken came out to the park and just stood there laughing at us. No scolding about the cold or admonishment about wet feet; in fact, I can barely remember a time when he was harsh or strict with the kids. I learned a lot about parenting from him and his calm, collected way of dealing with the day to day melodrama of living with small children. I can only hope that I can continue his approach when I have my own kids.

Anonymous said...

One memory of Ken that sticks with me is from a visit a while back — I think it must have been right after his treatment started. On the fridge was posted a long list of foods he wasn't allowed to eat: "Chocolate, tomatoes, coffee, garlic..." and on and on and on. Of course all of the best foods were on the list.

"How can you do that?" my dad asked Ken, expecting to hear a dramatic rant about how bad life was without tomatoes and coffee.

Ken shrugged. "It's easy," he said.

I was awed (an still am) at how Ken seemed to take everything in stride. I don't ever remember him getting angry or yelling about anything (except when I beat him at pool, of course). In fact, I can hardly remember a moment when he wasn't smiling or laughing. That's what I remember about Ken.

Anonymous said...

Fastest Jake Ever Moved

On the eve of Jake’s birthday I wanted to share this story with everyone who knew him.

Jake, Peter, and myself were on an extended bike trip in the “North Kingdom” of Vermont in about 1983. We were biking and camping carrying fully loaded panniers on the front & back of our bikes. Not having a lot of money, we of course camped as we stopped wherever we could find suitable camp sites. This was no problem.

After a particularly long and grueling day up and down huge Vermont hills in the Green Mountains, we were concluding our days ride when an angry mountain thunderstorm bore down upon us. We were literally in the middle of nowhere. Of course Peter was no where to be seen….. miles ahead of us.

As the storm grew closer the storm cell was directly overhead. Lightning bolts were crashing in around us, of course we were unprotected as we were on bicycles.

Jake & I looked at each other. We both nodded in agreement that Peter had obviously ditched us. The pitch black storm was closing quickly.

We jumped off our bikes, ran to the road side 20 feet from the road. In no more than 2 or 3 minutes we threw the tent us & jammed all our gear and ourselves in the tent.

As we zipped up the rain fly the downpour began and only stopped as the next morning broke. Later the next day we did catch up to Peter.

Those that knew Jake will have to smile thinking of him actually scrambling at break neck speed.


Anonymous said...

Jill, I think about Ken, and you and the children, so often. Last week, I was working with a child in therapy and she spontaneously told me that she was going to draw a picture of her room for me...from an aerial perspective. It was everything that I could do to keep the tears back as I fondly remembered long talks with Ken about his idea of this as a therapeutic technique. The little child "discovered" some things from the drawing, just as I always discovered new insights and joys of the world when I interacted with Ken. I knew he was with us. Happy Birthday to our friend. Love, Karen

Anonymous said...

I have many happy memories of summer fun with the Jacobson Boys at our family cottages north of MontrĂ©al. In particular, I have fond memories of my more recent chats with Kenneth. Somehow, I was able to “bond” with Ken during the last few years of his life and that will always be a special and inspiring memory for me.

As “blood relatives” and second cousins, we were able to discuss feelings directly. Since adulthood, and approaching the half-century mark, it was more difficult to coordinate summer meetings at The Lake and we had not seen each other for a few years. One autumn evening a couple of years ago, when I heard that Ken was ill, I picked-up the phone, called the operator in Chicago and tracked down Ken and Jill’s number.

I was anxious; one ringy dingy, two ringy dingy then Ken answered. This remains an inspiring memory for me to this day:

Ken said, “Hi Bobby, thanks for calling but we cannot chat now”. It was a cloudless, sparkly night and Ken was about to go stargazing with Natalie and Alec. “We’ll have to chat at another time, my children are excited and we want to get going.” “That’s fine, talk to you soon”. Click…

It is an inspiring memory for me because it seems that there is never enough time, and Ken had his eye on the ball. It is difficult especially at this hectic time of year to get priorities straight, to focus on what really matters, family, children, holding hands and looking at the stars.

Natalie and Alec and Jill, thanks to Ken, I am going outside right now to look up at the stars. I will look for one that is twinkling, smile, and remember Ken for the joy that he brought to my life and wish him Happy Birthday. Love Bobby N.

Anonymous said...

Natalie, Alec and I have a book we call our Memory Book where we write memories that come to us about Ken. Natalie and Alec want to each share one of their entries:

Alec: At night after reading books, me and Dad would collect coins in coin books. There was a slot for each year. If we already had that year penny, we would put it in a tin jar. That money I would keep.

Natalie: When Dad would come home from work we would hear him at the door. Then Alec and I would run to the door and yell: "Daddy!" Then we would jump into his arms.

Anonymous said...

Last year at this time I was trying to wish Ken "happy birthday" but couldn't reach him by phone at MD Anderson. I think I finally just e-mailed him. I had spent a weekend in October with Ken and his parents, Alan and Linda, at MD Anderson. It was the most alone-time I had ever spent with Ken because under normal circumstances in Evanston we would have our kids with us. He was very weak and couldn't walk very far, but the doctors were telling him that the cancer scans were showing up negative and there was some optimism in the air. I had every confidence in the world that Ken was going to gain his strength back through shear will and determination. During that weekend, we did things together that we never had done before -- like watch TV. He was getting interested in "West Wing" so I was updating him on what I knew about the show. We watched the White Sox in the playoffs and college football games. But my favorite part was pushing him through the hospital in his wheelchair. The place was almost deserted over the weekend so we went all over. Once, when we were in the atrium, he tried to walk a little bit, but got so winded so quickly that he threw up. I quickly grabbed the closest thing available, which was the top of a puzzle box. We both felt bad about that, but it was an emergency and, well, that particular puzzle is probably harder to complete these days without the cover. Then we went outside and sat in the Texas sunshine. It was warm. It was sunny. It seemed perfect. You're not supposed to go to a cancer hospital and have a good time, but thanks to Ken and his parents I had a great time at MD Anderson. Being with Ken, even under those circumstances, was a delight. When I left Houston, I thought for sure that Ken would be home for his birthday, or at the latest, Christmas.

Tom Jacobson said...

Memories of my brother:

Many of my dearest memories are of playing sports during our early childhood years in South Chicago. Ken loved sports, and playing and following sports gave him considerable joy.

In the Jacobson boy's celestial order, sports mattered more than most things. Though our dad was about as far from being a jock as one can imagine, Paul, Ken & I were in constant motion pursuing every sport within reach throughout our childhood.

Grasshoppers were plentiful, and always entertaining, from the vacant lot next to the local synagogue. We'd catch them in jars, and enjoy all sorts of insect wrangling rodeos. Other games had their times to shine among the multitude of children who lived in Marionette Manor, but baseball and football ruled in the warmer months.

Ken, Paul, and I spent untold hours playing 2-person "lineball" at the Luella School yard, just a couple of blocks from our house. Leulla was red brick, with windows high up. Urban legend had it that Luella had more broken windows than any other school in the vast city of Chicago. Everyone believed it; there were indeed countless broken windows...to which we regularly added with assorted ball games.

Lineball was simple and satisfying. Just pitching and hitting; all baserunning activity was virtual, care of the play-by-play, which was delivered by both players. The batter would stand at the brick wall next to a chalk-drawn rectangle which indicated the strike zone. The pitcher stood below (it was in fact slightly downhill, opposite of real baseball, which we hardly played before moving to the 'burbs) ready with a rubber ball and glove. A ball hit successfully past the pitcher on the ground was a single, on the fly was a double, hitting the chainlink fence was a triple, and over the fence a homer. If you really launched one, the ball could reach the Catholic school across the street. When batting we'd often choke up, to become more like Nellie Fox, while the pitcher would try to mimick the compact windup of the great Early Wynn. This was 9900 South, therefore it was all White Sox. Later, after moving to Wilmette, our fantasy players would morph into Ernie Banks and Fergie Jenkins.

Ken was very competitive, and wouldn't hesitate to throw at me if I got into a groove at the plate. Ken grew up to be a nice gentle guy, but his passion was unrestrained as a boy--as was mine--and many of our sporting contests included fighting. Sometimes we'd even resume the game after a fight.

Winter was especially full of awesome sports. ABC's Wide World of Sports was rarely missed on Saturday afternoons if we were around. Skiing, bobsledding, and the wonderful surreal barrel jumping--what ever became of that sport?--were captivating.

Between our Canadian lineage, and Chicago being one of the Original Six hockey towns, we loved the game. It also helped that you played it wacking a rubber disc with a big hooked stick while on magical ice skates. We were diehard Black Hawk fans, though in those days, the Montreal Canadiens ruled, and the Hawks were usually at or near the cellar.

The park dept would open a hydrant and freeze most of nearby Yates Park, and we'd spend as much time as possible skating over there. Pick-up hockey was the rule, and again, it wasn't until our Wilmette years that we played organized hockey on rinks, which though fun, never surpassed those memories of park hockey. Paul and I gave it up pretty quickly after moving North, but Ken continued to play rink hockey with friends for many years.

But our best winter wonderland had to be Lake Geneva. We'd spend a long weekend with the Davids, at George Williams Campus. Dad and Marv--the men--would go off for a day of skiing at Majestic Hills. Though we boys wanted badly to ski, we were told we'd have to wait until we were older. The mystique was all the stronger, as skiing was the only sport Dad indulged in. After all the years of waiting, Ken, Paul, & I all became skiiers, around the same time Dad gave it up. Skiing was a passion of Ken's for many years, and he approached it with the same vigor and pleasure he showed to all his sports.

Back on Lake Geneva, on good years there was perfect ice: you could skate endlessly as you watched the ice boats in the distance. A tobaggan slide was set up so you'd be shot out onto the Lake at speed....that was rare and fine. A very steep side street would ice up, become impassable for cars, and the three of us would spend all day racing downhill head first at maximum speed on our steel-runner sleds. I remember wanting those days to last forever.

Finally, my memory jumps ahead, to a couple of days before Ken died. Ken and I were alone in his hospital room when a fierce snow squall blew in off the Lake. As the grass whitened, I looked out the window, and then for sometime could see nothing but white; it as if we had been taken aloft into a puffy cloud. For the next few minutes I narrated this beautiful awesome scene to Ken, along with my triggered memories of great winter fun we shared all those years ago. Ken may or may not have been hearing my voice--he was mostly sleeping 24/7 by this point--but I'll forever remember it as our last time together, eternally 11 years old and delighting in the wonders of nature.



Camilla said...

I remember once when Natalie was upset because Alec got to see me more than she did (I babysat the kids weekly when I was in college at NU) and after I had calmed her down Ken said to me: Well, if journalism doesn't work out for you, you can always be a child therapist.

That made me so incredibly happy, coming from the most patient man I have ever known. Ken always took the time to stop and say hello as he was on his way out, genuinely caring about how you were doing. Though only meeting Ken sporadically while babysitting, his kindness and appreciation for life was definitely reflected in how much Natalie and Alec adored him.

Happy birthday, Ken.



Elisabetta said...

Ken's Birthday....

Being a close neighbor, there aren't many days that go by that I don't think about Ken. His penetrating, quiet, calm presence is still around. Today, I will think about it even more so.

One of my favorite memories took place a few years ago when Jill and I celebrated our own June birthdays together with our respective families up in Whitewater. It was a delightful weekend of good food, conversations on the porch, kids swimming in the lake and Ken patiently taking everyone for rounds of boating. Simple pleasures ARE the best!

My daughter, Daisy distinctly remembers Ken helping her row a canoe for the first time along with Natalie. He was a great teacher and he had such incredible patience. Such rare and valuable traits really stand out (even to my then 5 year old!) in today's fast-paced world where no one seems to have 'time' to do much of anything.

Today, I will take the 'time' to admire and appreciate Ken as much as ever.

Love to all of you,
& family

Anonymous said...

Today I'm going to think about the summer of 2003 and Ken on an inner tube floating down a freezing cold river somewhere in northern Michigan. Rafael and I (and family) were there with Jill Ken and family, Cindy Dave and family, Helen Dean and family. Just days before, Ken had received his first diagnosis, but he and Jill decided that it would be best to go through with the weekend and not to cancel their plans. Helen showed up with these amazing water guns, ostensibly for the children, but it was Ken, I remember, who decided they would better serve the adults and suggested we all take a lazy float down the freezing river, like, now, in the inner tubes. He paddled ahead and lay in wait in the shadows of an overhanging tree, and when we got closer, he showed no mercy; I can still hear that great laugh of his, that booming, joyful laugh.
Happy birthday, Ken.
Love, Kate

Anonymous said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAKE! I know you are with us in spirit. I can feel you in a gust of wind as your comforting hand upon my shoulder. I can hear you in the rustling leaves with your wonderful, deep laugh. I can see you in the rising sun with a wide smile upon your face. And I can appreciate you in the ripples of a pond as your sound advice moved us all. Thank you for being with us. Nancy

Anonymous said...

I remember the childhood Thanksgivings where one year there appeared on the table green applesauce. For some reason we all thought this was the most hilarious thing ever created, and I remember Ken's eye's lighting up and laugh still booming out at the age of 50 when I mentioned "green applesauce."

I remember when Ken and his friend Dave were travelling around and stayed in my small Berkeley apartment - I guess one was on the couch and one on the floor. We were in our 20's, who cared about those details. I was in nursing school then and I shared some of the absurd terms the medical field uses to cover up bodily functions. We spent the rest of their visit making jokes with those terms. And again, years and years later Ken would light up with laughter if I even mentioned one of those words.

So, it's looking like many of my memories have to do with his humor. In my mind that's one of the strongest connections any two people can have.

Happy Birthday Ken. And Paul.


Anonymous said...

As I was doing my charting this morning, I kept saying to myself what's the date today? I felt something is so special. Usually, when I feel that way, I check on my family's birthday list, and go down one by one on the list making sure that I don't forget someone's birthday.

Suddenly, I remember Ken! I open my email, and look for Jill's email. Yes, It's Ken's Birthday...

I always remember him as a great and loving husband, father, friend, and patient.
He talked a lot about how greatful he was to have a wonderful family.

Thanks Ken for teaching me a lesson-to be greatful for everything that we have in life.
Happy birthday.....


Anonymous said...

Ken, I think of you often and miss your counsel and guidance. I am now working with your colleagues and friends who hold you with such esteem and respect. Today is such a great fall day, the kind of weather that when we worked in the inpatient adolescent program at Michael Reese Hospital, we would spend outside with the teens we worked with, walking, playing football, or just hanging out and talking with them. I often think about you, our conversations about professional issues but also our talks about illness,cancer and its impact.
You have an amazing family that I have been lucky enough to be with and get to know better.

Happy birthday Ken,
Love Ruth

Anonymous said...

For the first 10 years we lived in New Zealand, we would make an annual trip to the States with our first stop Evanston, Illinois to see Ken and Jill. Early on, in anticipation of my return to civilization, I used to make long lists of all the things I wanted to do in Chicago – the Art Institute, Navy Pier, dinner at our old favourite haunts. I think we got to Navy Pier once in 10 years and instead spent our time together sitting around the kitchen counter, talking about everything while Ken or Jill cooked us something good to eat. Most days, if we moved from the kitchen to the front porch we were doing well. It was always the real reason for our visit – to connect with the people who matter to us most—an opportunity never lost on Ken. Happy Birthday Ken and Paul! Love, Cindy

Anonymous said...

I awoke this morning with the memory of a dream of Ken. Jill, Ken and I were walking down a city street, he ahead of us. Then, he was gone and I floated up into the air and settled on rooftop to find Ken sitting, watching, and writing in a small book.
What followed then were a few memories of Real Life:
Ken standing at the stove, making french toast for our kids. He shouts out, "who wants french toast?"
And the first to answer would receive a flying piece of perfectly cooked breakfast food on their plate, tossed ever so gingerly from the cook.

I am giving Ken a foot massage on the couch in Evanston. He isn't feeling so great, but he is asking me question after question about me.

It is July. Tom, Ken, Natalie, Alec, Sadie and I have canoed over to Duck Rock in the middle of Lac des Isle, Canada, and gotten out of the boats. It is a cool, sunny day. The lake water laps up and over the rim of this rock, submerged for who knows how many feet below the waters' surface. After orienting myself, I turn to witness Ken, lying on his back, ankles crossed, arms folded on his chest,
gazing into the blue sky with a smile on his face.

Happy Birthday Ken!
Happy Birthday Paul!


Anonymous said...

Tonight I will have one half a cookie and celebrate Ken.