From Julian's Mother, Michele

Thank you for coming together today to provide your love and support during this most trying moment for Julian’s friends and family. As Julian’s biological mother, I am aware of the special place society grants me in the hierarchy of affected souls, but I also wish to express my gratitude to the other mothers in his life who shared this role, whether by circumstance or  volition: First and foremost, Michele Goldfarb, for her exemplary sensitivity to his needs, to the mother of his first girlfriend who entrusted her young daughter to him for his initiation into love and sexuality,  and, in his last days, to the mother of his partner, Ann Coll.  

As Julian’s mother, I also bear the dubious burden of providing special insight into this very special child, whose quirks and challenges were evident early on.  Before his birth I chose his name, inspired by Julien Sorel, the hero of the great French novel, The Red and the Black, because his aristocratic lover explained the attraction exerted by the plebian Julien as “he is unforeseeable.” How prophetic those words turned out to be: but rather than celebrate a willingness to deviate from social norms in romantic terms, our Julian’s deviations were imputed to an “auditory processing disorder”—in medical parlance a condition that accounted for his often surprising behavior. Most importantly, it told us that he would process not only language but also the world differently, even if it provided little appreciation of the specifics of how his mind was working.  More insidious, it signaled to him that his reflexes did not align with those of many others even if he could see and understand in ways that escaped the majority. 

In brief, I, too, am here to celebrate the joys of having been so close to my wonderfully unique son and yet also left with the question that will inevitably gnaw away at us: Why? How did this relatively elusive processing disorder mutate into a devastating handicap freighted with traumas and disappointments that would lead to this tragic ending? 

In lieu of fruitless answers I wish to share a few of the images and anecdotes I have carried with me since his infancy that encapsulate what it meant to be Julian’s mother: 

  • In elementary school, on visiting day, the kids were asked to introduce their mothers, so Julian dutifully provided my name then added, to everyone’s consternation, “And she’s 48 years old” !
  • A few years later, he begged me to take him to see a Jean-Claude van Damme action film at the 69th st. movie theater, where I was the only white woman in the audience. Looking around, Julian confided that he knew I would like it because the hero was French. 
  • One would assume that my French inspired cooking exerted an influence on his passion for food but the fact is that when he,  Is and I were traveling through France when he was only 11 years old, he insisted on ordering from the adult menu, to which I acquiesced on condition he eat whatever he ordered. To my amazement, he chose the most exotic dish, Cassoulet, which I had never prepared, and proceeded to relish every last bite. He was also known to enjoy tripe at the fireless barbecue which was also a favorite outing; or red bean paste ice cream at the Chinese buffet, of which I have fond memories. 
  • Finally, I returned home one day to find an 11 yr old Julian daydreaming after school on the upstairs sofa. He confided that he was fantasizing about Italy—Pisa and Pompei— thanks to a lesson that day from an itinerant Italian teacher. I assured him that such sights were within our reach and when we went to the Met in NY, he pointed to the Tiepolo paintings on the ceiling. 
  • Unfortunately, his main memory of me is associated with the remorse he felt when I was called at 5 am to bail him out after a drug bust. 

Among you, I am the last to have visited with Julian at his great urging. He and Ann were extremely gracious hosts; but the next morning his behavior was dramatically altered, and he confided that his extreme agitation was spurred by the nighttime demons and traumas that haunted him. On our walk, I predictably urged him to seek help in silencing the negative voices.

But then I left, and I will never see him again.

From Julian's Father, Tony

A Father’s Remembrances – Part 1 

“There are no words….”   This is a phrase I’ve come to know intimately over the past 3 months since Julian’s premature death.   Just as there are no words to express the sorrow and profound sense of loss that his earthly departure has brought to all of us who know and love him, it’s been hard for me to find the best words to describe my beautiful son… My memories are jumbled and juxtaposed against one another, like a collage of mounted photographs spanning 32+ years; and my overwhelming grief is such a constant truth of my life that it’s been hard to find a calm state of mind in which to write coherently.  


From the time he was born, Julian’s energetic spirit was just a joy to behold and a gift to be encircled by.  His eyes were sparkling, and his wrinkled face was so cute.  I remember looking at him in the delivery room and watching his curious eyes looking around as if to say “hey – what’s going on around here?” He was active and highly responsive, interested in everything he could set his eyes upon.  And he was just so beautiful to look at – perfect facial features, soft and smooth skin, slender fingers on shapely hands.  Adorable!! 

As a young baby, Julian was filled with wonder about everything.  You could see in his eyes that he was very observant of everything and everybody, constantly exploring the world in a very physical way but also studying how things worked.  Temperamentally, he was cautious and “slow-to-warm” with strangers, but he was able to enjoy himself once he felt comfortable.  When he began to express himself verbally, it was clear that he was extremely sensitive and intuitive.  As my mother used to say: “Julian has an old soul – he’s so aware, so deep and so perceptive.”   

Julian was especially captivated by his big sister, Isabelle, who was constantly by his side.  From the time he began to smile responsively, she was his favorite person in the world.  It was just wonderful to see how much he loved her and how much she loved him.  Isabelle was the little mommy – always watching over him and making sure he was okay.  She insisted on holding him, rocking him, talking to him, bathing him, and feeding him when given the chance.  He would giggle and laugh at her whenever she was in view, and she knew just how to soothe him when he was upset.  Their love for each other has always been such a blessing.

Another recurrent wonderful memory of those early years was riding Julian on my shoulders.  I would hoist him up as we walked through the neighborhood and in the park, and I would wrap my hands behind his back to make sure he was stable as I picked up speed.   He loved when I galloped around like a horse, letting out peals of laughter and grabbing my head tightly.  At times he would laugh so hard that he’d start having hiccups!  It was sheer bliss to hug him, kiss him and squeeze him close… 

Summer Vacations

Among the most powerful and enduring images I have of Julian are from our many summer vacations in Cape Cod (Wellfleet) – starting when Julian was almost 4 – and Martha’s Vineyard – beginning in 1998 when he was 10.  I can see him running along the beach with Isabelle, then wading into the water, holding on to a boogie board and leaping into an oncoming wave as it carries him into shore.  I loved watching his beautiful body playing in the surf, glistening in the sunlight, in constant motion…  We would build sandcastles with moats and towers and construct sand mountains with spiral tracks going around and through them, upon which we’d roll small rubber balls.   From the time he was 6, we enjoyed playing the game “Sequence” on a beach blanket for hours every afternoon.  Typically, Julian and I were a team, playing against Isabelle and Carine.  The competition was fierce to say the least, and whenever we’d win a game, Julian would start laughing gleefully, then he’d jump up, prance around and gleefully shout “Boo-Yeh!!”  His infectious laughter still echoes in my ears, and his sparkling eyes are etched into my mind’s eye…  

When we started going to Martha’s Vineyard, we’d play games after dinner as a family.  He especially liked Balderdash because it gave him the opportunity to play on words and improvise jokes with the clues.  The air was filled with laughter when Julian revealed he was the author of some of the funniest answers.  I remember one that got us all hysterical.  The clue was about a historical event – March 2, 1951, I believe – and we all had to write down what happened on that date.  Julian’s answer: “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” a reference to the sci-fi movie starring Michael Rennie that came out in 1951.   

Middle School

When Julian was in 8th grade, he began amassing a sneaker collection of the highest caliber.  He’d spend hours online looking at the various options from Nike, Reebok, etc. and would save up his allowance to purchase the latest high-fashion pair.  He would go down to South Street where he knew he could get what he was looking for, and he’d come home with his newest pair which he’d proudly show off to his friends at school.   One morning as we were about to leave for school and work, I noticed Julian was taking longer than usual to get ready.  I went into his room to remind him that it was getting late, and I asked him what was up.  He replied that he was having trouble locating the sneakers he had decided he wanted to wear that day.  Looking around the room at the dozen or so pairs in view, I asked him “What’s the matter with that pair over there?” Without missing a beat, he looked at me with a disapproving look and said, “And you call yourself a child psychiatrist?  Don’t you know anything about what teenagers need to look good for school? You have to have the right combo of shirt and sneakers, or else kids will laugh at you!”  It was clear that I had failed a fundamental test about adolescent development.  I shrugged my shoulders and reluctantly acknowledged that I didn’t realize how his ensemble wasn’t suitable without the correct matching sneakers.  I made sure to never repeat that mistake again.  

High School

Another memory I will always cherish is from the spring of Julian’s freshman year in high school when he was a cast member of the school production of Guys and Dolls.  Although he had only a small speaking part, Julian’s performance was stellar.  He was a natural on the stage, filled with exuberance and joy, completely engaged in his role, even hamming it up with deft pantomimes and double takes.  He was clearly enjoying himself and having fun along with the rest of the cast.  The show was a real crowd-pleaser, and we went to all the performances just to cheer Julian on.  I was so impressed with his acting ability that I offered to send him to an acting camp the following summer which he declined.  Much as I hoped that he would continue acting in subsequent high school theater productions, he didn’t pursue drama in a formal fashion.  But Julian incorporated his dramatic talents in his style of telling jokes, of recounting stories, of mounting impersonations and of spontaneously improvising routines that would send us into fits of laughter.  His facial expressions and body movements were simply extraordinary, and his timing was impeccable.  It’s clear to me that his many years of observing others and his natural gifts as an actor helped to transform him into a performance artist.

Adventure in Greece

During Thanksgiving 2004, our family went to Greece to visit Gen who was spending a semester abroad.  We rented a nice white van so the six of us could ride comfortably, and I recall how crazy it was to drive through Athens with tons of motorists and motorcyclists going at top speeds in every direction. Among the highlights of the trip was a visit to Delphi which included a long day walking around the ruins of the Oracle and the site of the early Olympics.  In the later afternoon, after we all returned to the inn where we were staying, Julian and I decided to set out on a trip into the hills to visit a mountain-top cave that was about 45 minutes away.  We set out on the highway and eventually turned off onto a dirt road that seemed to lead up the mountain toward our destination.  The signage was terrible (definitely not in English) and it was clear that we really didn’t know where we were going.  Before too long, the dirt road became really narrow and led us to a dead end near a ledge overlooking the valley.  We had no choice but to back down the narrow dirt path in reverse which was not easy to do in the fading sunlight.  Suddenly, we felt the van get wedged against an object and a moment later, we heard a loud crash and the entire rear window of the van shattered, spraying tiny pieces of shatter-proof glass throughout the inside of the vehicle.  We got out of the van and saw that the van was stuck on the limb of a very stubborn tree!  I got back in and tried to move the van back and forth, shifting from drive to reverse – but no luck: we were stuck, stuck, stuck!! At that moment, Julian looked right at me and said: “Hey Dad – is this one of those father-son bonding moments?!?”  We both cracked up and laughed for several minutes.  Finally, as it was starting to get dark, we discussed our options.  Should we ditch the van and go down the mountain to find help or should we give it one more try?  We gave it one last shot, first by pushing together from the back of the van, and then by my gunning the engine, popping the clutch and jerking the van forward.  We were free and mobile once again!!  We found our way back to the highway and soon afterwards, stopped at a modern rest stop gas station.  There, we found a huge, high powered vacuum cleaner and proceeded to spend twenty minutes picking up every piece of glass we could find.   Driving back to the hotel, long after sunset, the air temperature in the van dropped precipitously, and it was super cold and windy inside.  Julian turned to me and said softly, “This is going to be a tough one to explain to the family.  No one’s going to believe us!”   


These are but a handful of the many stories I plan to write about Julian in the coming months.  The task of keeping Julian’s memory alive is now the main focus of my journey through grief and mourning.  As Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, author of Bearing the Unbearable (2017), writes: 

“Grief comes to one and all; no one is exempt.

We must remember our dead.

We must do better for the bereaved.

To be redeemed we must remember.

Remembering is our duty –

And the only thing that will save us.”


Thank you for reading this and participating in the process of remembering Julian.   Please feel free to share your memories and your reflections/ comments.   


In peace and with love,

Tony Rostain – Aug. 22, 2021. 

A Father’s Remembrances – Part 2

Julian and Dogs

Julian always loved dogs. The first dog in his life was Bear who belonged to my sister Carine. Bear was a stunningly handsome black and white Golden Retriever/Pointer mix. He loved chasing squirrels and birds. and he was an incredibly affectionate and loving creature. From the minute Julian met Bear, it was love at first sight. Julian, aged 2 1/2 years, would hug him, follow him around, play with him, and nestle with him. To his credit, Bear was always very tolerant of Julian. As they both grew up, their friendship deepened. We would see Bear when we visited Carine on weekends in NYC, but the most time they spent together was during our summer vacations in Wellfleet and Martha’s Vinyard. Julian was very “tuned in” to Bear, watching everything he did, figuring out as best he could what Bear was thinking, and always advocating for Bear. A memorabloe story occurred on our last summer in Wellfleet (1997) when Bear managed to eat several steaks that I had intended to barbecue while we were out whale watching. The steaks were thawing out in the kitchen sink, and by the time we got home, they were gone. I was furious, yelling at Bear, saying “WHO DID IT!?!” to make him feel bad. Julian looked right at me and said “Dad – you shouldn’t have left the steaks out. Bear didn’t know any better. He couldn’t help himself…” At that point, I stopped fuming and realized Julian was right.

Right after Michele and I got married (June 14, 1998) we all moved into our house in West Mount Airy. In addition to the humans in the household, we had two cats (Bert and Ernie) and a dog, Rocket, who was an affectionate Brittany. Julian formed a close relationship with Rocket who loved to be pettef and hugged. I remember Julian doing his homework in the downstairs library with Rocket at his side, and Julian watching TV in the living room with Rocket on his lap. He would always greet Rocket with a big, warm hug “hello” which he would answer with a joyful wag of the tail and a lick on the face which set Julian giggling. And while many of us would tease Rocket because he wasn’t the brightest dog in the world, Julian always stood up for him and reminded us that he was “such a good dog!!”

In August 2000. Aunt Carine called to say that she’d met a man in Riverside Park who was walking a brood of adorable lab mix puppies.  When swhe asked him if any of them were available for adoption, he said that one wasn’t yet accounted for. Soon after, she called to tell us the good news, so Julian and I jumped in the car and drove straight to NYC to jmeet this person and pick up an 8-week old black puppy. This was exactly what Julian had wanted for his birthday – a dog of his own. Avi (named after one of Julian’s summer camp counselors at Independence Lake Camp) was an amazingly smart Weimeraner/Lab mix. Julian held him on his lap all the way home to Philadelphia, talking to him about hgow he was going to have so much fun walking in the park and playing in our backyard. This was thge start of a lifelong loving relationship that can best be summarized as “a boy and his dog”. They would wrestle, play tug-of-war, run around the yard, and go for long walks in the park together whenever Julian was with us. Avi was a regal animal with deep, intelligent eyes, a thoughtful gaze, and an incredibly self-possessed personality. He was not impressed with other dogs – in fact, he perferred to ignore them if possible. Avi wa incredibly human-centric to the point where we were convicnced that he thought of himself as one of us. This was especially true when he would “man sit” on our couch and look directly at each of us as we were speaking. Julian had great insight into Avi’s mindset – at times he would interpret his expressions and literally tell us what he was thinking – it was uncanny. And Julian knew exactly how to get Avi to cooperate with him. While most of us had to coax and plead with him, Julian had a great way of talking to Avi in an authoritative and convinving manner. Whenever Avi did something funny (like ignoring a yappy little dog that was trying to get his attention), Julian would laugh his inimitable laugh and joke about how Avi was the coolest dog on the planet.

Around the same time that Avi joined our family, Carine and Phil adopted Jasper, a gorgeous mix of Wire-Hared Pointing Griffon and other breeds, who they adopted from a foster home in North Carolina. Avi and Jasper became very close friends as Carine and Phil came to visit us every month and we vacationed together on Martha’s Vinyard every summer. Julian was overjoyed when the dogs were together – he loved to watch them wrestling together and he often joined in the fun. Jasper was an avid explorer – he’d take off to explore the terrain around him no matter where he was in search of interesting wildlife. One time, Jasper got skunked badly and ran into our house on the Vinyard. Julian was the first to smell the terrible odor, and he yelled out to warn the family. It was an awful mess that required multiple treatments with several less-than-effective remedies. Julian was engaged throughout the entire ordeal, helping to apply the potions and assess their impact.

Julian  was the best man at Carine and Phil’s wedding in 2005. He was responsible for taking care of Jasper (who carried their wedding rings pouch around his neck). There was a very funny moment during the middle of the ceremony when Jasper jumped on Carine and Julian had to grab him and hold him back. As usual, he did it in such a naturally good-natured manner that Jasper just sat back down and relaxed.

Josie joined our family during Thanksgiving 2005. She was a survivor of Hurricane Katrina – rescued with her siblings from underneath a building that had somehow survived the floods. A cute black puppy with one floppy ear (likely a shepherd/lab mix), Josie was extremely high strung and easily rattled. We recognized right away that she suffered from PTSD – she would startle when anyone came near her, and she’d bark at strangers like they were trying to hurt her. Julian understood how to get her to relax when she was over-excited. He talked to her in soft tones with reassuring words (“it’s okay Josie, it’s okay… there’s nothing to be afraid of”) and her rapid breathing would slow down. It was beautiful to watch our family’s dog whisperer in action. Of course, Julian also had his mischievous side – when he wanted to tease her, he’d get down on all fours, look at her and say: “Josie – you CRAZY!!” – his giggly laughter filling the air when she’d start wagging her tail at him.

When Julian returned to live with us in the summer of 2011, part of his daily routine was to take Avi, Josie, and Laura’s dog Belle (a standard poodle) for long walks in Wissahickon woods. In the evenings, over dinner, we would listen to Julian’s hilarious stories of their adventures on the wooded trails nearby. Michele and I would laugh at his discriptions of our dogs and of other dogs and people they’d encounter. Inevitably, there’d be a tale of Josie being stressed out by mountain bikers trying to get by her, of Avi eating horse manure (one of his favorite snacks) and of Belle being completely clueless about what was going on around her. Julian literally cracked himself up with these stories to the point where his laughter interrupted the narrative. Julian and Laura would often walk in the park together, and from what I understand, they’d have very deep conversations about life, politics, philosophy, etc. When Michele and I would walk in the park with Julian and the doggies, our conversations were much more mundane – how he liked his job, what he was learning to cook, how he was getting along with the staff at the restaurant, etc. But no matter what we were talking about, Julian was always observing the dogs and commenting on their behaviour and attitude. There was never any doubt – he truly understood them, and he knew how to take the best care of them.

Julian was around when Avi died in October 2014. I happened to be out of town at a meeting in San Diego. Avi suddenly became very sick, very quickly. Michele and Julian rushed him to the Penn Vet Hospital where he was diagnosed to have an abdominal tumor that had ruptured causing severe peritonitis. The ER veterinarian advised against aggressive intervention. It was a terrible moment of decision. I remember being on the phone with Michele, crying about Avi’s terminal condition. She told me that Julian was there with her, holding Avi, and telling him how much he loved him, and supporting the decision to let Avi go. I felt grateful that Julian was there in my place, doing the right thing for Avi and providing much needed emotional support to Michele.

A few years later, after Josie has become increasingly incapacitated by a progressive neuromuscular disease and was no longer able to walk or to enjoy any quality of life, Julian was a wonderful support to us when we made the decision to euthanize her. He knew how painful it was for us to face this decision, and he was incredibly thoughtful and insightful in our discussions. He kept reminding us that Josie had lived a good life with us, that she was suffering and that it was an act of love to “let her go”. 

Julian’s boundless love, intense bond, deep connection, and intuituve understanding of dogs are inspiring to me. I will always picture him with his arms around Bear, Rocket, Avi, Jasper, and Josie, hugging them tenderly, looking into their eyes, nuzzling with them, and smiling blissfully, his eyes aglow…


In peace and with love,

Tony Rostain, Sept. 12, 2021

From Julian's Sister, Isabelle

Since Julian died I have been desperate to remember every single moment I had with him, but what I’ve realized is that it’s hard to make these memories come to me on demand, and they just sort of trickle back with time. One of my favorite memories is from our trip to Oregon to see the solar eclipse in 2017. We were driving from the “totality zone” in Oregon back up to Seattle and were caught in a massive traffic jam. My dad was driving, I was in the passenger seat controlling the music on my phone and Julian was in the back seat right behind me. We started playing a game where we went around and had to say a song with a name in the title (ie. Eleanor Rigby, Roxanne, Billie Jean, etc), and then after each person’s turn, I’d play the song. It was so fun, and each of us were SO excited for the next person with each answer they could think up, and would say “oooh, nice one!” but also hope that the person before us wouldn’t steal the song we were thinking of! It passed the time, but it was also a moment that I was so truly present, content, and at peace. There were no other distractions and we were just all there together, going somewhere, but not fast. I will cherish that moment forever. I miss Julian so much.

From Julian's Friend, Paperboy Prince

This was one of his favorite songs and videos that he told me about in the last 6 months! I listen to it often and it always makes me think of him. He was really into this – and anything from Appleville and PC Music from what I know. He had dope music taste, cuz idk many who were listening to this stuff, so it was a great find.

From Julian's Friend, Tolle

Remembering Julian

A Purple Plum tree in our yard–
bears no fruit
yet – phantom fruit?
Its leaves flicker
a color
more maroon than purple
with orange edges
outside our window in Boston.
Is this an imposter?
How can it be itself?

A Fig tree in a Philly backyard
bears more fruit than
one would imagine.

Bowls of bulbous shaped figs
came to the memorial.
A bite reveals lush life.
Its interior… sexual, earth-like
with endless layers
firm then fragile
and there for you –
a remembrance of Julian.

We gathered
in the garden
to honor you;
lovers of dogs and food!

Paper Boy told stories
of shared awakenings –
high and deep
only the young
know what inspired and moved them
forward or not
to many places.

A fig, a dog,
friends, family
live and breathe
the beauty of a life.

A fig imagined thru Julian
– a release of him.


From Julian's Girlfriend/Partner, Anne Coll

I don’t know where to begin… he was smitten at our first interview. I did not know that…,he was a great chef in the kitchen. He had grand ideas .. he was so special to me and many people. He supported me through thick and thin. He was kind and thoughtful. All of the dogs miss him so much.. Ollie looks for him everyday and as William Wallace aka Willy. ,I miss cooking his favorite Vietnamese food. I miss our conversations about politics. I miss dancing in the evening with him. I miss going to the park with him. He was a wonderful person so much

From Julian's High School Girlfriend, Jackie

We were young & carefree, but you see, that was how Julian was going to always be. I knew it from the time we met until the time we broke up. We had our ups & downs, certainly we figured out how to care for someone through *trying* to care for each other. By trying, I mean in all the ways a 16 to 19 year old can care for another person.

We were young & carefree, life was simple, and our little world – which spanned from the parks of Mount Airy to the streets of Chesnut Hill – felt endless. We danced everywhere we went, there didn’t need to be music. Julian taught me how to hold a pool cue, he made me (everyone) laugh out loud, and showed me what it meant to be unapologetically yourself.

I admired how Julian found something special in everyone, he never judged them for their circumstances or their perspectives on the world. He knew everyone was human, and found a way to relate to even the most difficult person in the room. He might even make them smile!!

We were young & carefree, Julian was my first love after my parents, my brother – he became a part of my family, which split while him & I were together. And in that time, his family felt more like a family to me than my own did. We played boggle – which I was absolutely terrible at – and I remember looking around at Julian’s family longing to one day have what they did.

Julian traveled with me, we drove & drove until we didn’t know where we were, sometimes to the Jersey shore – this was before you could google map yourself back home. I remember when Julian got his ears pierced, when he showed me his tattoo – we thought we were the coolest kids on the streets of Germantown.

We were young & carefree, not understanding the complexities of adulthood, but living like we were adults. Julian and I didn’t work out for several reasons, but mostly because we were too independent and came into each other’s lives at a time where we both wanted to leave Philly & see other parts of this beautiful world. Now especially, I hold onto the fun times we had and the way that we cruised the streets, Saab convertible top down all year round & 3 (big) guys in the tiny back seat, blaring Wyclef. I know you’re dancing up there, Jules.

From Julian's close friend, Alexander Showell

I really miss him. However the laughter he brought out was truly special! Julian put a smile on anyone’s face around him, whether we are laughing with or at him . He ALWAYS wanted to make those around him happy and comfortable and I feel so sad like many of us that I didn’t check up on him and remind him how much he means to me and all of us. Love you Julian! You brought me to your father’s house and you were the first of the group to include me and I’m grateful you brought me closer to everyone. Your/Mickey’s invite is what lead to the beginning of our group best friendship (Ben, Mic, Joey, Julian & myself )! I Love you and will always think of u when a good laugh comes my way and can’t wait for the day we share one together again!

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