Today there was an article in the Travel Section on CNN.com called Travel Mishaps with a Silver Lining. The article is about the good that can come out of terrible travel situations, such as a car breaking down or a lover breaking up with you and leaving you stranded. After reading this article, I instantly thought of my own silver lining. I actually just finished writing a story about the passing of my boss , Kate, who I worked with in London.
It all happened so quickly. On a weekend she had stomach pains and went to the hospital, on Monday she found out she had cancer and then by Friday she had passed away. It was a complete shock to our office. I felt a couple things at once. I was angry that the doctors did not detect this earlier when she went for a check up just months before but most of all I was upset for her eight year old daughter who would now have to grow up without her mother. It was not fair at all.
Even though I only knew Kate for the five months that I had been working at the literary agency, I learned so much about her from the letters that poured in from friends, authors, editors, and other colleagues. She was loyal to her authors and encouraged them and believed in them. She read absolutely everything and was filled to the brim with book ideas. She had a generous spirit and would always let a friend know she was thinking of them during their tough time or give them advice when they needed it the most. She loved to laugh and enjoy a good party with some champagne, which I was lucky enough to witness at our Christmas party. Above all, she loved her daughter and her husband. All of these letters would be put into a scrapbook for her daughter to keep. As I read all of these personal stories told by people who knew her better than I ever could, I found myself inspired to be more like her. I wanted to find ways to do more good for others, to help someone in any way I could. When I would reunite with my family, I wanted to appreciate every single moment with them because they are the people who love me unconditionally. This is the natural reaction almost everyone has when someone close to them dies. Why can’t we figure these things out when the person is around? That is the reason they have to leave though, so that we can improve.
Her funeral was on Valentine’s Day because she and her daughter decided that it would be the right thing to do – to celebrate her life on a day that celebrates love. I rode with the rest of my co-workers on a train to Norwich, two hours north of London. The service was in a rotunda room that overlooked a beautiful park with a lake just below it. Throughout the service, Kate’s favorite poems were read, we listened to songs that she used to play for her daughter, and an excerpt was read from her favorite book, Little Women, because Professor Baer and Jo March reminded Kate of her and her husband. The combination of words and music all rolled into one fit Kate’s personality perfectly.
Afterwards, I walked out to the park where she was buried to say good bye and I looked out over the hill to the lake below and I just stopped for a moment and asked myself, “How did I get here?” When I came to London, I never thought I would be attending my boss’s funeral on Valentine’s Day. Why would it ever cross my mind? If all of it did not happen though, I would have never come across those letters and prioritized my life. I would never have become as close as I did with my co-workers. When you share an experience as vulnerable as this with a group of people, it is hard not to be bonded with them in a way that cannot be broken. I would have never thought of Valentine’s Day as anything other than an excuse to eat obscene amounts of chocolate while sulking about not having a special someone. It really can be a day where you celebrate a life that affected you positively and who until five months ago, was a complete and utter stranger.
Right before I left London, my co-workers threw me a going away party and they mentioned how they felt bad that I had to go through all of this when my time here was supposed to be an exciting work abroad experience. Of course I wish Kate hadn’t passed away, but I do not regret coming to London for one minute and meeting all of my co-workers. It was the best decision I ever made and the beauty is that I can see that.