The Gantseh Megillah

Farewell, Shalom and Adieu
March 18, 2012

It is my sad responsibility to tell you my husband, your friend and the Editor of the Gantseh Megillah, Michael David Hanna-Fein, died February 27th, 2012 in the Palliative Care Unit of the Jewish General Hospital, in Montreal. He was born July 11, 1947, in New York City, and had also lived for a time in Boston, and New Port Richey, Florida. Michael went peacefully in his sleep because even his enormous heart could not go on forever.

Michael referred to you as his Megillah family, and he envisaged our project as an online shtetl where we could all meet and share ideas. In many ways he achieved his dream. I don't want to list the close relationships that grew from the Megillah because they are too numerous, and I would cause hurt feelings when I inevitably left someone out. I am still discovering people who tell me how Michael touched their lives very deeply, and I know you loved Michael; what I'm glad I can say is Michael loved you back.

His greatest legacy is the infinite number of sincere, emotionally rich gifts Michael personally delivered every day of his sixty-four years of life. He was a gentle, peaceful soul who would approach strangers with warmth and good humour. When you met Michael, you knew him, but just as importantly, he knew you. Remarkably, he could also accomplish this though e-mail, or over the phone. Michael always said the right thing because he had a quick mind, strong instincts, an inexhaustible well of compassion coupled with a tremendous understanding of what is truly important. Other than to himself, Michael rarely gave bad advice.

Since he refused to dwell on it, many of you may not know the difficulties in Michael's life. I know that all G-d's children have troubles, but Michael did get his particular burden. Abandoned at birth, his earliest memory was crying alone in his crib. A difficult childhood with his adoptive parents was complicated by un-diagnosed Crohn's disease, which resulted in multiple unnecessary stomach operations in his twenties. After the loss of a child, two failed marriages, chronic pain, and an out-of-control prescription drug dependency, Michael was again abandoned at the age of thirty-four, this time by the medical profession. He was told his problem was psychosomatic, and he should seek relief from a rehab program, and the mental heath community.

It wasn't until 1984 that Doctor Irving Ingraham, who was Michael's best man at his third and final marriage, properly diagnosed his condition. Treatment was not without complications, and Michael was visited by a rare side effect of his medication which caused the bones in his joints to die. Multiple hip and knee replacements bound Michael to a wheelchair and added to his already severe chronic pain. Throughout these ordeals, infections and Crohn's disease continued to eat away at Michael's system, and ultimately caused the catastrophic organ failure that killed him.

I don't drag you through this horror show for sympathy, rather to illustrate a key to Michael's character. I received several e-mails after I announced his death on Facebook telling me how they would miss him, and how grateful they were for all the kindness, help and support Michael had given them in the past. His Facebook friends were astonished to find out how dire his physical and medical condition was.

Michael wore his heart on his sleeve, and he was always reaching out to others with a positive, upbeat, loving message. I shared Michael's life for the last thirty years, and he helped me every bit as much as I helped him. I was having dinner the other night with a friend who remarked how she thought Michael and I were newlyweds when she first met us, because we were so obviously delighted, and in love, with each other. She was surprised to find out we had already been together for fifteen years; that was the level of freshness and inspiration Michael brought to life every day. We lived and worked together virtually twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for thirty years, and we were happily engaged, and in synch, with each other through it all.

That is a rare gift, and I hope some of you have found it in your own lives. Michael was a talented and remarkable man who illuminated every space he visited. The best gauge of his success is how much he was loved by others, and he was worthy of every bit of that love.

A driving force in Michael's life was his unbridled gratitude for the gifts he received, and his Megillah family of writers was one of the most bountiful. For thirteen years this remarkable stable of capable writers delivered monthly contributions for zero financial compensation. To Batya, Brian, Dan, Dov, Joel, Eddy, Elliot, Evelyn, Jeannette, Lenn, Lynn-Ruth, Marge, Marvin, Mel, Nathan, and Sharon, Michael and I say thank you. You helped make the Megillah a reality and your contributions and friendship were immeasurable.

I regret that we have to say goodbye to Michael. He was committed to promoting Jewish life and culture and the Gantseh Megillah was a special place, thanks to him. He believed in a progressive message delivered with humour, understanding and a wish for peace. I am looking for someone who can take over this project, and build on his success. I will continue to keep it online for as long as I can, but I need you to come up with a way for it to continue to grow, and flourish.

Rest in peace, Michael, and know that you will forever occupy a big piece of my heart.
Love to you all,
Acting Editor

See Michael's obituary.

See the videos of Michael's Memorial Event

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