Lessons from an "old friend"

I quite unexpectedly got a phone call yesterday from an old friend, and because I suspect she would demand clarity, I don’t mean that she’s old, I just mean she’s been my friend for a very long time. She has been through a very difficult medical challenge where there was some real concern along the way that she wasn’t going to make it. Thank goodness, she is coming out the other side of this “cluster” as she described it, and is likely to make a full recovery. There were a couple gems that came from this conversation that I thought were worthy of sharing, that have some application not only in our personal, but also in our professional lives. With that in mind, I changed direction on this month’s topic.

The first gem is her indomitable spirit. She has always been the brightest light in the room, for the many decades that I have known her. This experience didn’t visibly shake her, didn’t make her cynical about life, nor does it seem that she is dwelling on it. She is looking ahead. There is an obvious lesson there, about all of the big and trivial things in our lives.

She also talked about being humbled by this event, in learning how many friends she had, how many people were rocked by what was happening to her, and how they responded. She doesn’t even remember an entire week of the worst of her ordeal, but knows now how many people stopped in their tracks and wanted to know how she was doing and how they could help.

The most important, most profound point that she made was when she said that it was like seeing your own eulogy. She had the opportunity, through direct interaction and social media to see what people really thought of her, how important she was to them, and how the thought of losing her impacted their world in a way that she didn’t realize. This is really quite a gift. Depending on your view of the hereafter, you may or may not think that you will have this opportunity when the time comes.

The ironic parallel of this entire event is that it occurred just 3 weeks before her scheduled retirement after almost 39 years of dedicated work for state government. At her retirement parties many of the same people would have said many of the same things. The parties will now be rescheduled and they will get to say them all over again. What a blessing for everyone involved that she gets to continue being the brightest light in the room for years to come.