Dealing with loss – it never gets any easier

This post was meant to be about leadership.  Leadership versus management.  But that will have to wait, because a more pressing topic has emerged: dealing with loss.  This morning we learned that a very dear friend has died.  In this case the decline has been surreal in its speed, and the grieving process will be a long one.  We have lost many friends and family members over the years, and it is never easy, whether it’s fast and you are unprepared or it’s slow and painful and you are altogether too prepared.  Even though death is the one certainty in life (along with taxes, according to Benjamin Franklin), this reality is hard for us to accept.  After all, all we know is life.  But the only way to protect ourselves from the pain and heartache of losing a loved one is to never love, and for most of us that is a non-starter; it would be a lonely existence indeed.  I’m a firm believer in the adage that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

My friend was a beloved wife, mother, and grandmother.  As well, she had been a math professor and coordinator of the Math Help Centre at her university, and was very active in community activities.  The outpouring of love and concern from many, many former students, colleagues, and friends throughout her community last week as word spread of her grave situation attests to the high regard with which she was held by all.  The way she led her life has much to teach us.  What would a math prof have offered her students, decades past for some of those students, that would have made that kind of impact?  Well, possibly it was her ability to reveal the elegance of calculus?  Possibly.  Maybe she marked easy?  Maybe.  But neither of those options, even if true, would result in the affection and respect accorded my friend by former students.  No, the outpouring comes from her positive attitude and the caring attention she gave to everyone she interacted with.  She made you feel like what you had to say was worth listening to, whether you were a first year student who had to take math no matter what, a fellow alto in her choir, someone at the community kitchen where she and her husband volunteered, or a friend taking a leisurely walk with her.  If you had a question, she was there to listen, with intelligence and good humour.  She lived the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  She lived her life – her dash – with warmth, integrity, and strength of character.  She has left us the gift, by example, of how to live a life well and also that important reminder that we should make every day count.

Thinking of her reminds me of the topic of leadership.  The definition of a leader that speaks to me best is “a leader is someone who has followers”.  Some people who are in official leadership positions have followers as a result of the money it is their prerogative to dispense.  Other people in positions of leadership in reality don’t have any followers; nobody has bought into their vision and they are leaders in name only.  By this definition, Flora Beckett was a natural leader; she had so many followers.  It was our privilege to have known you, Flora.  Rest in peace, my dear friend.

Flora1

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16 Responses to Dealing with loss – it never gets any easier

  1. Nicole says:

    I could tell she was a very special person, inspiring so many to become better people. We need more people in the world like her. I’m sorry for your loss, Jane. Keep her bright spirit alive in your heart.

  2. puravida says:

    I’m so sorry, Jane. She sounds like a wonderful person.

  3. A.M.B. says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, Jane. This is a beautiful tribute to your friend’s life. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  4. Sorry to hear about your loss.

  5. Steph says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss Jane. Flora sounds like an amazing and inspiring person who could teach us all a lot about living.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Steph. She would be embarrassed by all this, and that as well can teach us something. I suppose it’s similar to that old adage “it’s better to give than to receive.”

  6. jane tims says:

    Hi Jane. I am sorry. Your words are a worthy memorial to your friend. This year I found out that a friend I loved dearly died ten years ago. It was a shock and no easier to bear in spite of the years that had passed. I had always looked forward to the day we’d meet again. Jane

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Jane. I know what you mean. We had a similar experience recently, although definitely not as long ago as 10 years. It shows how important our relationships with others are to us, and it should also remind us that we may have that kind of impact on others without always knowing it. I guess that means we should always be on our best behaviour!

  7. DM says:

    thank you for telling us about your friend. You have captured her love for life..it explodes off the page as I read this. Those like of souls are rare. makes me want to be more like that.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, DM. She is indeed a role model for leading a positive, engaged life. With that in mind, judging from your posts I’d say that you’re doing a pretty good job of it.

  8. alesiablogs says:

    It is better to have loved. You are absolutely right. I am reminded of my nursing career and the loss I saw when I worked in the ICU. It was during those times, I know God had me to grow the most.

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