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September 21, 2014
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One man’s legacy


When his daughter Jennifer was five, she was badly burned. Her nightgown had caught fire one morning as her parents slept. Hal managed to smother the flames with his bare hands but the damage was life-threatening for his precious girl-child. And the damage to his family didn’t stop there. The guilt and pain of that day would have broken most families apart, but theirs held together out of sheer determination. Jennifer recovered after years of hospitalizations. She became a ballerina and later, a physical therapist.

At my uncle’s memorial service recently, both his children recounted their father’s professional accomplishments. Too numerous to catalog here, they include the championing of the Mental Health Professionals Law that led to the licensing of psychoanalysts in New York State.

I talked about our shared sailing adventures and said that, of all the adult role models in my life, he was the one who showed me the value of constancy in marriage, of fidelity and bravery in the face of tragedy. Not a bad legacy.