In memory of my friend Merle Hamburger
by Rebecca Leeb McGinniss on Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 1:51pm
Merle was my “work spouse”. We met in 2006 when he was hired onto the team I worked on, and I will never forget the grace with which he navigated questions during his interview that left me cringing. Merle was a people-person, but more than that, he was my friend. We shared the same academic interests, sense of humor, and tendency toward irreverence. Every year we celebrated our birth week together — our birthdays are separated by exactly 1 year and 1 week — Why celebrate for just a day when you can celebrate for a whole week was our theory? When I got married in 2008, Merle read the 7 blessings at my wedding.
Merle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 42, and immediately turned his formidable people-skills to advocacy, and his even more formidable will-power to living his life to the fullest. He began a blog (www.merlehamburger.net) and chronicled his experience from start to finish. He concentrated on living in the moment as much as possible. He adopted the mantra, borrowing from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, “I’m not dead yet!”, and celebrated his life though parties with friends and family with titles like “Tumor B Gone” — commemorating his Whipple surgery, where guests were instructed, per the invitation, to “deposit tumors, illnesses, malaises, and other discomforts into the Flaming Chalice of Health at the front door”; and Tumorpalooza — Versions I and II, in honor of the anniversary of his diagnosis. Merle worked until the last few weeks of his life, worrying all the time that he was not doing enough, when in fact, he was doing more than enough. When he could no longer work, he graciously invited visitors to his bedside 24/7.
Merle is the most heroic person I know. He is an inspiration for how to live, even when living seems hardest. I, along with many others, will miss his kindness, humor, intelligence, friendship, and bravery.
Mar. 1, 1966 – July 19, 2011
Keep searching for that Holy Grail…
2008, Purple Stride 5k for PanCan