Tag Archives: Ending

What I did on my summer vacation

The cycle continues this week with the autumnal equinox marking the end of the summer season. My summer plans started out fairly consistent with previous summers – teaching summer school, hitting selected Chicago street festivals, a trip or 2, and hanging out with friends. I headed west to Reno for some family time and a couple of weddings. What I did on my summer vacation turn out much different than anticipated, it lasted 54 days in total.

Wedding plans were right on schedule. Those ‘save the date’ cards actually work. I even went to a bonus wedding for a high school friend. I celebrated a few birthdays out west as well, mine included. There was a great reunion with some friends that included a going away party for their daughter as she moved to Portland, OR. And, the unexpected…I attended two funerals while I was home. The first was for my aunt’s sister. Finally, the biggest event of my whole summer was the funeral for my mom.

Yeah, how is that for a speed bump? This was moving along so smoothly too. When last we met I told a couple of stories about being with my mom over the summer. However, the fog from her Alzheimer’s disease turned from her state of confusion and a stunted life trajectory to mine. But, I don’t want to go there, at the moment. I want to wander through a few things I realized about my mom, my family, and me over the summer. It has been a month since we were surrounding her with love and support as she made her final transition. I have to believe she is in a better “frame of mind” now than she had been in for the last few years of her life, and definitely her last month.

Let’s start with gratitude. Speed bump number two, or yet another 90-degree turn on this little journey I am leading you through. It gives me extreme peace to know that she is not struggling anymore. Her final words to me were “Good night, Rich.” This didn’t occur on the night she died, but it was this summer. Nevertheless, she told me good night AND she said my name. Metaphorically I look at this interaction as her goodbye and a verbal hug acknowledging our relationship. The more heartbreaking of our visits was just after that good night during some alone time between us. I was talking; she was nonverbal for the last month. THEN… she looked at me with a smile in her eyes, she was smiling, her energy was just like so many of the great times we had throughout my life – we were together and we were smiling. That 3-seconds was fleeting. She started to cry. It wasn’t just tears, it was a sad upset crying. It was an “I think I am leaving,” crying. Thankfully that turned quickly to blank again and then I was the one crying. When I think of her death, those 6-seconds help to remind me she is not hurting. Back to gratitude – I spent most of the summer with her and working on her behalf. I got to be there to do my part to help my dad and brothers as the family administrator guy. I got to spend time with mom. I had 3 amazing (all things are relative) moments with my mom. I miss her so damn much. I am not sure how or when this “fog” I am in will lift…but they tell me it gets easier.

There are many great stories I could share. These help us remember what the treasure my Mom is…I guess I should say was now, but I think I’ll keep the present tense for now. In my world she is a treasure. One I will treasure in real time forever. Over the summer I had many conversations with people about her. I started to keep a list of what was said. In a quick, quasi qualitative research approach I noticed themes – kindest, sweetest, nicest, a lovely lady, a special bond between us, warm, talented, classical grandma, loving, laughing, patient, special lady, the word favorite is often attributed to her… Someone told me that she was a gentle giant, the person that never really jumped to the lead role (although she could do it, and she did lead) she was always the one you could count on to be there and provide support. Her Karma bank was always overflowing with simplicity, love and a smile. There are a couple of books, Quiet and Quiet Influence, about the leadership qualities of the introvert. My mom was in her own class. She was an extroverted Introvert or the introverted Extrovert; loved to be with people and part of the action. She was on the quiet side. In Emergenetics© terms (I never tested her, damn!) she had to be a second third Expressive and a first third Assertive. I am sure she was a third third flexible, holy decisions batman. Her leadership style was that of an influencer with a quiet determination.

In my earlier research on leadership one of the themes we found was – Legacy/Lasting Difference. The interviewed leaders said this legacy piece was something that one didn’t set out to do, but it was nice when you are remembered for something. When I stood at the funeral to give the eulogy I looked at the church. It was packed, people were standing in the back, and they were in the entryway. Through tears I said my mom was such an understated woman that she would be surprised that so many turned out to honor and celebrate her life and legacy. It was overwhelming and comforting. A recent daily encouragement from my Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhist practice said this: “Ultimately, people only die as they have lived.” To die happily is therefore extremely difficult. And since death is the final settlement of accounts for one’s life, it is when our true self comes to the fore…” (Daisaku Ikeda). A packed house honoring her true self seemed appropriate. She was the gentle, quiet leader that was there to provide giant support for others. A legacy of love, support, and care among those she touched in her 70 short (too short) years.

Ability: “Talents, skills, Power or capacity to do.” We all have the ability to lead from the front, the middle, or behind. We all have the ability to leave a legacy and to make a difference for someone/everyone. I knew my mom was an amazing woman that made great (quiet) contributions for the good. What I did on my summer vacation was be there for her, with her, and to see life and purpose through her. Even in her final days and hours she taught me the power of connections and community. Hmmmmm…when the student is ready the teacher arrives. Thanks mom!


Filed under Leadership

Death cards & stoplights

ChangeStoplight Games of Chance
I grew up in Nevada. Gaming was all around me – casinos, supermarkets, airports, convenience stores, many would think this is gambling (which it really is, I am not pretending it isn’t). But, a teaching point here – In Nevada it is referred to as gaming. (This portends a level playing field and sports like doesn’t it? See previous post on Perception is Everything, case in point here.) For now, let’s stick with gambling which is wagering money/stakes on games of chance. We also gamble if we take a chance with something in life. Writing this without saving my work along the way is gambling that the computer may freeze, or something could happen that I lose all of this good stuff. It has happened. I obsessively include keystrokes to save my work as I type along, <control-S>ing as we speak. Think about poker, there are many different ways to play, amounts we can bet, strategies to win. We learn to have a poker face. We play our cards close to the vest to protect our hand. I think the great philosopher had it right when he reminds us –

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done

Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser…
Thank you Kenny Rogers.

It’s true that every hand is a winner and/or a loser. There is simultaneity in these games of chance, whether they are poker or the game of life. We all have decisions to make at every turn of the hour, day, month, year, career and beyond. How we play these games is probably related to how we make decisions and approach our work with others. There are times to stay in the game and other times we move to another table and try our luck again. Every gambler knows…right?

I played poker with the tarot and four people died. Actually, that is a line from the monotone comic Steven Wright. I love his deadpan delivery. Of course, dry humor IS the highest form of comedy. Now speaking of dead I was recently thinking about the meaning of the death card in the tarot deck. Yep, I was just sitting there standing there one day and something made me think of this card and its interpretation.

Death card the big change
I was thinking about this card and what it means within a reading. I did not know there are stories associated with each of the cards. This death card is about CHANGE, EXPOSURE, TERMINATION, INEVITABILITY, and TRANSITION. Death provides a metaphor for transition. Whoa, that could be the understatement of the year, eh? Many groups and religions explain death and see it as someone making their transition somehow whether to heaven or somehow changing form and being. I love how Nichiren Buddhism explains death as a part of life, rather an extension of life itself. This concept of the self continues after our death. Think about loved ones who have transitioned and how you talk about them. We tell stories. We carry their legacy. The legacy of who they were, and what they did. The essence of their self continues forever. This forever makes it pretty important to BE while we’re alive.

If you look into dictionary about the symbolism of dreams the meaning of death, have very similar change or transition meanings. Some counseling theories/therapies make use of asking what one is dreaming about. Carl Jung discusses the meaning and uses of dreams within his writings.

The ONE thing that we can count on is change. I am not claiming that phrase as my own, but I couldn’t find anyone to credit. Whether we are moving from one grade to another, getting to graduation day, weddings, or closing out the budget year we are in a constant cycle of change and closure. While we are growing up we are transitioning (remember puberty? holy change batman).

Relationships, friendships, vacations, living spaces, jobs …Lions, tigers and bears….things end. Things change. Things die. Careers shift and things change at work and we find ourselves in transition. Some of the time we control and cause the transition and in some cases, the circumstances force our hand to move to the next chapter. In either situation, we can look at the change as a curse or a victory. The final death card is indeed pretty final. But the intermediary death cards, these are transition points and times to refocus.

Dr. Nikki Giovanni is a poet and professor. She was at Virginia Tech when the campus shooting occurred there (2007). I first noticed her work during that news coverage. Recently, I found her quote, “A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.” Read it again and emphasize the E-words: Enjoy and Embrace.

Bridges’ Model
Dr. William Bridges, Change Consultant, has a transition model. Its simplicity is beautiful: Ending, Neutral Zone, New Beginning. You have to end something, go through some time of uncertainty, then begin something new. Think of a standard stoplight at the intersection – red, yellow, green.

RED – Stop. Things end. There has to be an ending. If we don’t have some termination then things are unclear, it is uncomfortable, we have unfinished business. It is like rolling through the stop sign, we know we shouldn’t and sometimes it works. BUT at some point “breaking the law” will catch up with you. Ticket.

Yellow– This is the neutral zone of what do we do now? There are no set rules. We need to get our wits about us. New normal has to be established and this time-period can be tough. When the light turns yellow there’s quick glance at the intersection, glace to the mirrors and that split second decision weighing the odds of stopping or the gun-it gamble flashes through our minds.

Green – Enthusiasm. Why didn’t I do this sooner thoughts. There is more hope than fear. We can now move on and head toward the next intersection with some confidence. We have established a new beginning. Pass Go. Collect $200.

There is life after death (um, maybe that is another blog post all together)…metaphorically speaking of course. Transitions, change, and movement are the ingredients of an exciting and adventurous process and life. We love the changes and the transitions that happen. Letting go of the control of some of these is within all of our ability. How we handle the transitions and changes is probably more of an indicator of leadership than many other things. What was your last intersection? How long did the light stay yellow? How bright was the green light in the end?

Leave a comment

Filed under Leadership