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Sunday, May 6, 2007

Life

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Tulips, Cherry Blossoms and Funeral Logistics

The mother of one of my two best friends from college died on Friday.

I flew out on Saturday at 6 am and am getting ready to go to the funeral shortly. Necessarily, this will be more of a telegraph-style post than most:

Spent the morning and afternoon on my own on campus; saw the red, rather than gray, squirrels I recalled from the first day of freshman year.

Parked in front of Osterweil Co-op, my home for senior year, which was as homey as ever; had a chat with the one person who was up at 9:30 am, an Indian doctoral student (from Goa), who's in the School of Social Work, studying parents' lay-health treatment of their children globally.

Saw the phone-jack (no longer a phone there) of where I first conversed with my mother about my having a girlfriend, rather than a boyfriend.

Checked in at the Inn at Michigan League.

Spoke with my friend, who was just getting on her plane in Seattle.

Walked to the CCRB (gym), past so many tulips, to swim -- bracing water, particularly refreshing after a dry flight; the banners over the pool, happily, were maize and blue (the school colors); there was a series of beautiful college-women in every lane.

When I went to Michigan, I never saw it so in bloom, as the school-year always ended in April. Gorgeous here in spring.

Stopped by the Exhibit Museum of Natural History on my way back from swimming and spoke with the cute docent in the rotunda. She was sitting at a table, featuring an exhibit of animal horns and antlers. She kept inviting the kids to touch them.

I was feeling some antlers while we talked. "Are you a docent?"

"Yes."

"I was a docent my freshman year. I loved it. Did they take you on that field trip as part of your orientation, to that land-fill outside of Jackson Prison, where there were trilobites and other fossils to collect?"

"No, I'm jealous!"

"I loved giving tours to the elementary school groups."

"It's a little nerve-wracking, though."

"How so?"

"Well, the public speaking part of it."

"Oh!" I said dismissively and gestured with my hand. "I mean, I don't mean to discount what you're saying...."

"It's OK."

Inside, I was smiling, thinking, I loved that part -- being in front of a group in the role of educator -- and it is a major clue to why I enjoy my current role 20+ years later as a leadership development facilitator (instructor).

"I've learned so much here, though, which I love."

"Me, too. I wasn't a science student; I majored in Comparative Literature."

"English," she said of her major, and we smiled at our common ground.

Took myself to Zingerman's for lunch: chicken salad and roasted asparagus. Super-fresh.

Drove up to North Campus to see my old dorm, and where we once went traying down a steep hill that sloped into Murfin Ave.

Spent money at Ulrichs' Spirit Shop on Michigan regalia, including a yellow MICHIGAN T-shirt for Pat whose favorite color is yellow.

Did some work at the Grad Library and marveled at students with iPods; laptops and cell phones, none of which existed when I graduated 20 years ago.

Felt terrific that I myself was back in school; wished I could teleport myself to this particular library whenever I wanted.

Saw streams of cowled grads upon exiting the library, as the Law School graduation ceremony had just let out; I said, "Congratulations," to one of them as I passed his family and him and he said, "Thank you," very soberly.

Drove to my friend's home in a Detroit suburb and it was as book-filled and whimsical as I recalled, including the mobiles of flower planters, hanging on the patio in back.

When I arrived, I felt my friend's mother's absence as soon as I walked through the front door; the house, for all its personality, seemed barren without my friend's mom in it.

Broke a porcelain penguin that her grandfather brought back from China while reaching behind it to pick up the photo of my friend's grandmother; oy!

We had dinner together with her father and older sister and it was hard to remember not to relate to everything they discussed about my friend's mom to my own family-life, that is, we were there to recall her mother, and not to compare and contrast our family memories; I succeeded on and off.

How has a friend helped you during a period of your grief?

2 comments:

didi02453 said...

My original comment included a note that I found this passage, and the related one the following day, both moving and useful: "We had dinner together with her father and older sister and it was hard to remember not to relate to everything they discussed about my friend's mom to my own family-life, that is, we were there to recall her mother, and not to compare and contrast our family memories; I succeeded on and off." We all talk about active listening skills -- but in emotional situations, it is so difficult to *practice* those skills. There was more posted at the time!

Sarah Siegel said...

Thanks for reminding me that I'm not alone in my struggle to be an active listener and a passive talker during others' most intense situations.

I learned a great acronym during some IBM training, in the context of listening to our clients:

"W A I T," which = "Why Am I Talking?"