Sadness…and legacy


It is with great sadness that I tell you that my brother, Joel, passed away last night. I was with him, by his side. The funeral is tomorrow in Pennsylvania and I will have my family near me.

That’s us. He is on the left. It was his birthday, but he let me cut the cake.

I want to use this as a teaching moment, in part to inspire you, but also because what I have to say is fact, and not the stuff of dreams or ambition:

Writing can and does change the world. When we are all gone, we can be assured that what we write will outlive us.

I know this because my brother wrote for a living. I know this because he would write to me, and I would write back — from a very young age. I probably learned to write my first words because of him. I didn’t want to rely on our mom to write for me. I wanted to be big, grown up.

Back then we wrote by hand or by typewriter. We put a stamp on the envelope, and then we waited for a reply.

His paragraphs were well formed. His revisions, clear. He never talked “down” to me as a little kid. I will show you:

He makes good writing look easy — and it isn’t; but I think the effort is worth the result. When I read him back then, for a moment I could forget that there was a long distance between us (we always lived far away). I forgot I was “reading” and he was “writing.” It’s like the page wasn’t there. We collapsed time and space.

Oh yeah, writing can do that, too.

Like the letter says, the same goes for all of us: “Now, it’s [our] turn to write.”

-Prof. S.



    Omg! I am so sorry to hear this sad new. My deepest sympathies go out to you.
    Reading his letter, he really was a sweet brother to you. I’m sorry for your loss
    Please accept my heartfelt condolences to you and your family.

  2. Tina

    I’m so sorry for your loss Professor Schmerler, your brother was such a wonderfully kind and inspiring human being. Condolences to you and your family. My heart goes out to each and every one of you.

  3. Luis M

    Im sorry for your loss professor, your brother looks like a fantastic person and very inspirational.

  4. Haifa

    I’m sorry for your loss Professor. sending you love and support. Your brother reminds me of grandpa, It seems that God is taking the good people away from us. Just when we need them the most. But we can find comfort in knowing that our loved ones are with God in heaven. They are safe and happy. And we can also find comfort in knowing that we will see them again one day.

  5. Eldwin Figueroa

    I’m so sorry for your loss Professor. My deepest condolences go to you and your family.

    • Sarah Schmerler

      Comment (Private): (show)(hide)
      Much much gratitude, Eldwin.
      -Prof. S.

      NOTE: Private response is visible only to instructors and to the post’s author.

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