A Loving Tribute to
Gerald Nissenbaum, M.D.
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Memorial for Gerald Nissenbaum, M.D. and Presentation of Portrait
Jersey City Medical Center, June 20, 2003

Remarks by Gary D. Nissenbaum at the unveiling of his father’s portrait at the Jersey City Medical Center

             My father was a powerful man who gripped life with both hands and would not let go. He had the range and intelligence to harness and direct his enormous strength to delicate undertakings: the subtlety of healing disease; the gentleness of relieving suffering. He toiled without respite in that always-losing battle to stave off the deterioration and death that is our common destiny. He used his will and enormous physical stamina to keep pushing that rock up the hill day after day, only to see it roll down again, as over time, his patients ultimately went the way of all flesh, and God laughed. Yet, he would rededicate himself the very next day to that effort. And it is in that toiling, without respite, that he showed the best of himself, the best of humanity.

He was a physician who never gave up. He took that irascible, lumbering leviathan called disease; grabbed it by the scruff of the neck; and forced it to move away for the time being. How many patients and their families gained resolve from knowing that their physician had that kind of fortitude? How many of them were, in some measure, eased of their suffering simply by knowing that a man like Dr.  Nissenbaum was running interference for them?

We are all so alone, and  at no time more than when we stare down a path along which our bodies begin to fail us. But there he would be, when he was needed most, reaching down to grab a hand and lead toward a different path. And he would not let go.

            He was dedicated to excellence; he had an inner strength and force of will that informed everything he did. It was hard sometimes for a son to live up to that standard. Perhaps none of us really did. Yet, he showed the three of us the way. And there is still time.

            A son cannot measure the life of his father, for a son cannot truly ever know his father. A man holds things back from his son; he seeks to show only certain parts of himself, to set an example. Yet, perhaps the rest of my father is seeded within me, and if that is so, then as the years pass, I will come to know him better. And I will come to respect him more.

            Gary D. Nissenbaum


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