Good Grief

by Jonathan Reisman

It has been a month since Ernie, blessed be her memory, passed. I am in a state of grief, a distressed state of mind. The sea of sad tasks invokes memories, reflection, love, and tears but also actions and interactions that my maternal grandfather would have called “mitzvahs”- good deeds. Good grief, or so it seems.

I have been productive at home, writing, cooking, cleaning, curating, and cat care. (I try to remember that the cats are in grief too). Travel has included testimony in Augusta punctuated by a TV appearance and a stop at Bangor City Hall to pick up a copy of the death certificate. The long-delayed National Popular Vote (NPV) legislative hearing was less than two weeks after her passing, but I needed to be there. My testimony and advocacy and the familiar customs and rhythms of a legislative hearing also channeled “Good grief,” but perhaps more in the Charlie Brown as opposed to pastoral sense.

I have been buoyed by the many cards, letters, phone calls, and messages of sympathy and support. Several of Ernie’s former employees and co-workers shared the profound effect her mentorship, caring, and friendship had on them. More mitzvahs paying it forward. I even got a condolence call from my old boss, Angus King. Ernie had worked with the Governor at former Missouri Senator Jack Danforth’s Policy Maker’s Institute and emerged with the blueprint for what became Families First/Healthy Families, which she headed up in Washington County from the Down East Community Hospital campus. That eventually led to her becoming the DECH Human Resources Director, where she did mitzvahs on a regular basis for DECH employees and the greater community.

Angus’s call came shortly after former GOP Chair Demi Kouzounas’s very late announcement that she was running for Senate against Angus at the specific request of and recruitment by Senator Collins. I sent Demi a short letter offering to help, noting my experience with Angus and suggesting she look for support by emphasizing that, unlike Angus, she:

  • would commit to submitting legislation for required Congressional approval of the NPV in the hopes of defeating it and preventing the disenfranchisement of every right-of-center voter in the 2nd CD;
  • is a climate realist as opposed to an alarmist who would only support policies that actually reduce global warming as opposed to virtue signaling and would oppose policies that raise the price of energy without any demonstrated benefit;
  • would not support policies that appease Iran;
  • would not abuse an Intelligence Committee assignment to enable mis- and disinformation about Russian collusion;
  • and would not support and advocate for the confirmation of a tree-spiking apologist/conspirator as Director of the federal Bureau of Land Management, an action that showed tremendous disrespect for Maine’s forest products industry and heritage.

I have not heard back from either Demi or Senator Collins. Good Grief, indeed.

Ernie touched many lives in her faith, work, family, and neighbor communities. She midwifed and performed many mitzvahs herself. My grief is a journey filled with many of those mitzvahs bearing fruit and being paid forward. Blessed be her memory and good grief.

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