Goodbye Marni- Baruch Dayan Emet

A relatively short time ago I received a telephone call from a dear friend. He quickly handled the standard plesantries and asked me if I had heard the news about Marni Kaufman. By the tone of his voice I knew that whatever the news was it wasn’t going to be happy.

Sure enough he said that Marni had died. He didn’t know too many details, other than it was cancer.

I can’t say that I was close with Marni. Back in high school we took a few of the same classes together, but it would be a gross exaggeration to say that we were anything more than classmates together.

Still, due to various circumstances I knew a bit about her life after high school. You see, the girl that I once knew as Marni Kaufman became Marni Levine. Here is what her obituary in the LA Times said:

LEVINE, Marni E. (37) Devoted mother to Jordyn and Brooke, love of Darren’s life, Marni was also an internationally-known instructor in the Israeli self defense system of Krav Maga and founder of Krav Maga Worldwide. Marni, the highest-ranked female Krav Maga instructor in the world, appeared often in the news, from The Today Show to The Los Angeles Times to MTV. She was a co-founder of the Krav Maga National Training Center, one of the largest self defense schools in the world. Marni’s courage and spirit inspired all who knew her. She cared deeply for others and devoted her life to making them safer and stronger. Marni trained thousands of students and shared her knowledge with hundreds of instructors. She will be missed by all, and most especially by her husband Darren; her daughters Jordyn and Brooke; her mother and father Bruce and Lynn Kaufman; her brother Lee Kaufman and his wife Tracy; and her brother Mitchell and his wife Michele. Funeral services will be held today Sunday, September 3, at 9 a.m., at Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills. Call 323-489-6000 for information and directions. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the City of Hope.

My condolences go out to her family, especially her daughters. As a father it is just terribly distressing.

On a related note I must add that this bothers me tremendously. I have lost so many friends to cancer. Not just people that were acquaintances, but good friends and people that meant a lot to me. I don’t say that to diminish the pain and loss of others, but as a prelude to this next point.

I am 37 years old. I am young. And in my life I can recount the loss of far too many of my peers who have died because of some form of cancer. There have been a handful of brain tumors, stomach cancer and a couple of other versions.

Some people have suggested that I should be concerned because we all come from Los Angeles. But it is not that easy to draw commonalities like that. If you search for patterns you’ll see that we all lived in different areas around LA. We didn’t all go to the same high schools or colleges.

The docs attributed one of the cancers to an asbestos problem caused by the Northridge earthquake. One of the brain tumors was diagnosed as an Astrocytoma.

Causes and symptomsThe cause of astrocytoma is not known. Brain cancer may occasionally be caused by previous radiation treatments; however, x rays are not believed to play a role. As of 2001, studies have indicated that the moderate use of handheld cellular phones does not cause brain cancer; ongoing research will determine if long-term cellular phone use causes an increase in cancer incidence.

Some studies suggest that brain tumors may occur more frequently in people who have occupational exposureto certain chemicals, including some pesticides, formaldehyde, vinyl chloride, phenols, acrylonitrile, N-nitroso compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, lubricating oils, and organic solvents. The greatest risk is associated with exposure before birth or during infancy.

There is a slightly higher incidence of astrocytoma in the siblings and parents of people with this tumor; however, only one type of astrocytoma is known to have a genetic cause. The rare subependymal giant cell astrocytoma occurs in conjunction with tuberous sclerosis, a hereditary disorder.

And there you have it, they don’t know exactly what caused it. It could have been exposure to any number of things. Who the hell knows what.

Here is what I do know. I find it distressing to think about how many of my peers are gone. In high school and college I lost a number to drunk drivers and or other auto accidents. Those weren’t great either, but for me it was easier.

Anyway, what this reminds me is that I am a very, very lucky man. Life is precious and I am grateful for the time that I have. Hug the people you love and let them know that they are special to you.

Again to Marni’s family, I am so sorry.

Baruch Dayan Emet.

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