11 June

Portrait: Ed And Carol Gulley, In Love One More Time (At Least)

by Jon Katz
Portrait: The Gulleys

When I visited Ed Gulley yesterday, Carol was out shopping. I itched for a portrait of these two photogenic and charismatic people and so I went back today after lunch.

I am sorry about Ed’s cancer, but it is good to see these two so happy and in love, both of them say they have “bonded” dramatically since Ed was diagnosed with advancing brain tumors, and  it is good to see them so happy together. Carol is also my friend and I could see the stress and fatigue in her face.

But they have finally, she said, had the time and motive to really talk to each other and understand one another.  Cancer, like any other thing, can be a gift, and they both know it.

This time to talk and reconnect t has made both of them very happy, soul mates once more, and it was a pleasure to see it.

Ed and Carol both surprised me – we had a long and sweet talk this afternoon by Ed’s bed and chair. I asked them if they hadn’t bonded before in their 45 year of marriage. They said no, not really, they never had much time alone, they never had much time to talk to each other, they were just too busy with the daily grind of farming.

They often drifted apart, and Ed often neglected his children, he was so busy with the farm.

Ed admits he had little time to spend with his children or his family, he said he gave up too much to his farm, even as he loved farming. He rarely told his children or grandchildren how much he loved them, he said, and he is making up for lost time now. I think he’s telling Carol that now, too.

Carroll and Ed both said on their recent journey, they talked and talked and reconnected in a beautiful and loving way. Carol said she finally understood why Ed seemed too busy and remote to spend more time with his children. She said it was because he was working so hard for them that he just didn’t have any extra time and energy.

Their closeness is palpable, they are so much in sync and together, especially since Ed learned of his illness. Ed and Carol are planning another trip together, this one to Maine. Ed has been in touch with a number of people who have told him of the many years they have lived happily with brain cancer just like his.

I realized today that Ed is becoming increasingly convinced that he is not dying soon, or perhaps at all.

He said when he went on his trip to the Badlands in South Dakota he was certain he was near death. Since he got home, he has had a transformation. Even though he has lost the use and control of much of his left side, his hand, feet, arm, he is in no pain and is eager to do many things, including take another trip.

His family is tearing apart the farmhouse to rearrange the living room into a bedroom and office for Ed, it is big, flat and close to the bathroom. He is eager, he says, to project to the world the importance of being positive and living in the present. He certainly has been energized since he got home from his trip, the family has gathered around closely and is, I think, lifting him up.

He has plans to travel, lecture, write and paint. You can follow his writing and poetry on his and carol’s blog, the Bejosh Farm Journal. They are, he says, moving ahead.

I think I am finding my role in all of this, especially since Ed has come home and we can talk face to face. We are very comfortable with one another. I think what I need to be is myself.

When people get sick, there is a tendency for other people – especially on social media – to adulate and praise them for fighting and struggling and being heroic.

Ed gets messages all day telling him how wonderful and brave and honest he is. That can be beautiful, and it can be dangerous or misleading.

But I know that praise alone can be misleading. That is not the role of the friend – to be a cheerleader. My idea of the friend is to be just the same as I always was, to be familiar and honest, to say the things he doesn’t want to hear sometimes.

My job is to remind Ed that being sick alone does not make one wonderful, we can never take ourselves for granted.

I am not Ed’s cheerleader, not here to shower  him with praise and admiration. A lot of people are doing that. And I do not believe that is what he wants from me, or what I want from him.

I’m the one who tells him the truth as I see it and as I believe he wishes to hear it. When we get close and look into one another’s eyes, I see a friend who relishes the truth and treats life with respect and dignity. A friend who wants to know what the reality is.

A friend who must always look beyond himself, as Ed is working  hard to do.

Sometimes, his eyes look pleading to me. Sometimes, they are just looking elsewhere, they are not there. Sometimes, he is drinking up the excitement of being the object of so much attention.

I know that an illness like this is an agent of change, it changes the person who is ill, it changes the people around the person who is ill.

Every day that I can, I plan to stop by and say hello, drop off sandwiches, look into those eyes and just be myself. I am not fans, I am not family, I am not a therapy volunteer, or a doctor, or come to  say how wonderful he is. I’ll leave that to others.

it is good to have him home, good to see him often, good to hear his thoughts and see his feelings as they churn and bubble. That has helped me to see where I need to be in this.

Ed is a truth seeker, he is always seeking to know. My job is to tell him what he wants to know when he wants and needs to know it. That is what a friend does.

7 May

Writing To Ed And Carol Gulley. They Want To Hear From You.

by Jon Katz
Writing To Ed And Carol

I didn’t know at first how private Ed and Carol wanted to be about Ed’s illness, so I didn’t give out their address and suggest that people could write to them. When we were visiting them the other day, Carol pulled out a stack of letters she had gotten from their blog readers, and I could see how much the messages they were getting meant to them.

They sit at their kitchen table and Carol reads the letters to Ed. He says he plans on answering as many as he can.

Ed is an interactive human, he loves to talk to people.

I also saw on the Bejosh Farm Journal yesterday some comments from Ed on a video talking about how important messages from the outside world are to him, he urged people to keep sending them.

So I thought I’d pass along their address for people who might wish to send them a card, letter, photo or other message. It really helps. The address is Ed and Carol Gulley,  Bejosh Farm, 10 Chestnut Hill Road, Eagle Bridge, N.Y. 12057.

You can follow the Gulleys on their very popular blog, the Bejosh Farm Journal.

28 April

Helping Ed And Carol Gulley: A Go Fund Me Project. Help If You Can

by Jon Katz
Go Fund Me – The Gulleys

Help the Gulleys here.

As most of you know, Ed Gulley, a friend, farmer, artist and blogger, has been diagnosed with brain cancer, surgery is not an option and Ed has declined chemotherapy and other treatments.

Many of you have met Ed and Carol at our Open Houses or read about their lives on Bejosh Farm on their remarkable blog.

Ed and Carol plan to set off on a trek to Montana and other places in the next few weeks, Ed wants to see the world while he can, Carol is eager to drive him.  He’s been living and working on a farm every day of his 65 years. He is very deserving of this trip.

In recent years, Ed has mushroomed as an artist as well as  farmer and animal lover, Carol as a writer. They both have unleashed the creative spark inside of them and in all of us. Ed has sold his farm art all over the country.

Some friends in the farm community put up a Gofundme project for Ed and Carol to help them on their trip. They are asking for $10,000 but I hope the response is much greater than that. They deserve it and will need it. Milk prices today are the same as they were in 1970, no dairy farmer can take the right trip across the country without some help.

I hope you can help the Gulley’s at this turning point in their lives. Ed is determined to make his illness helpful to other people, he is planning to put up a video every day on his trip, we are all invited to come along. Ed is one of my closest friends – we joke we are brothers from different mothers.

He is a dinosaur, for sure. There are not many of him left, and I love him for his fierce independence and constant search for meaning.

I have enormous respect and love for him, he is iconic in many ways, one of a dying breed of family farmers and ferocious individualists. Carol is a genuine writer. They are a truly amazing couple.

Ed is planning to sell his latest art sculptures at our Open House in October, and we both expect him to be here. Just because he may die does not mean he will not show us how to live. He’s not getting out of fixing that wind chime on our porch.

I hope you can help the Gulleys by going to this Gofundme project and donating what you can. On my end, I am going to push this project to get up to $50,000 or more, I’ll post it on my blog here every day.  They will need this support in the coming months.

You can also follow Ed and Carol on their journey  by reading the Bejosh Farm Journal.

Their blog is groundbreaking in its portrayal of farm life, and now, I imagine it will do the same as a profile in courage and love. Ed and Carol are symbols of America and community at its best – hardworking, honest, devoted friends and parents and spouses. They have devoted much of their loves to loving animals, Ed’s cows are his best friends.

We owe the farmers a great deal, people like the Gulleys are the ones who have made America great and fed us and our families. I am sure we will stand by them now.

You can go directly to the Gofundme project here. Please share the site with your friends if you can.


27 May

Remarkable Man: A Visit To Ed And Carol Gulley’s Farm. The Real America.

by Jon Katz
Ed Gulley/Bejosh Farm

Ed Gulley is a precious friend, a dairy farmer, an artist and sculptor, and in every way, a remarkable and larger than life man. I am privileged to know him and his wife Carol, they are now very valued friends of ours. He happily agreed to host these refugee kids and explain the hard and wonderful life of the American farmer.

He showed them his cows, his work, his barns and milking stations.

He talked about the life of the farmer. He showed them his peacocks and new planted rows of corn. Ed is not typical in any way, he is not like anyone I have ever known. Ed is the last of a breed in many ways, a self-described dinosaur. A loyal friend and a gifted artist and blogger, the Bejosh Farm Journal which he and Carol publish daily is popular now all over the country and some of the world.

It was very important to me that the refugee kids meet Ed and see him, he is symbol of the true American character, honest, hard-working, self-made and  uncomplaining (except about milk prices). Carol is one of the warmest and most hospitable people I have met. The kids got a real view into the heart of America today, or so I believe. You won’t find it on the news or in the White House.

You can find it at Bejosh Farm, and the kids loved every animal and moment of it. Ed is one of the great animal lovers I know, and it was a great moment when he hauled out a newborn calf and told her to be nice to the kids. She was.

Ed works in pain all the time, nothing seems to slow or stop him. He has invited me to bring all of the 100 kids who are coming to Bedlam Farm this summer. I just might take him up on it, they sure loved seeing him today. And Carol’s brownies were pretty wonderful also.

4 October

Portrait: Ed And Carol Gulley. Loved Etched In Lines.

by Jon Katz
Ed And Carol Gulley
Ed And Carol Gulley

Ed and Carol are very much a couple, partners in a life that has sometimes been very painful and difficult, always challenging and demanding. They love their life, they love one another, their children and grand-children, their extended families. They are side-by-side in every way.

Ed is a remarkable character, smart, funny, a born-story teller. I told Maria there are not too many people that can bullshit me right under the table, but Ed is one of them. I love taking photos of the faces of these two, they are so much in love with one another. Their love is etched in the lines of their faces.

Carol says she can’t imagine why Ed grew a beard, she doesn’t like it, she likes his face, which she insists is handsome. He says he will take the beard off in three years when he’s 65. Carol can’t wait. Ed will be at the Bedlam Open House Saturday and Sunday, selling his enchanting “Junk Art.”

Bedlam Farm