So Little Time

Do you wonder every day where the time goes? You look forward to days off, vacations, family & friend events. You celebrate every occasion and holiday. You hug friends and family. But is it ever really enough? Do we ever really have enough time to appreciate our lives and what we have?

While I have not worked at KYW Newsradio since the end of 2000, I have remained friends with many of my former colleagues. We talk, have a lunch, share an email and from a distance, I have appreciated the people who I spent 15 years of my life with. In the past year, sadness has struck that newsroom in a profound way. I cannot imagine what it has been like to cover news on a day-to-day basis and experience behind the scenes what has been going on in that news family. Two former colleagues lost their spouses. One of those colleagues also lost her mother within a day of losing her husband; the other had recently lost his brother before his wife died. Another former colleague died of cancer. Then this week, two former Newsradio colleagues died in the same week. Karin Phillips at the age of 53 and last night, Jack O’Rourke at the age of 80.

The death of Jack has sealed in me a sadness that is one of those defining moments: I am getting older. Yes, Jack was 80, but he had no intention of retiring. He loved the Phillies. He covered them with a reporter’s enthusiasm. Jack did the stories straight, but you can’t cover a sport for as long as Jack has without loving the game. I was at a game in late June. Our seats in the Hall of Fame Club led us to walk just under the press box that night. I looked up at the box and saw Jack. I yelled to him. He popped right over to the open area and leaned down to grab my hand. We held hands for a bit while we talked about how we were doing. He was glad to see me with my husband. When Jack would ask, “How are you doing?” – he really wanted to know. Jack cared about people. There have always been stories from Jack about his children and grandchildren. He has great-grandchildren now. How they will miss their pop-pop.

Jack was a consummate professional. He hated it when people used foul language. Frankly, a news room can be a room filled with toilet mouths. Jack would toss a disapproving look toward people who used foul language. He was always a class act.

Last night in my section 134 seats at the ball park, a foul ball floated up toward the press box. My eye left the ball because I spotted Jack at his post. He was standing at that particular moment. I thought at the time how I admired him for loving his job – and the game – so much to be sticking with his job for so long.

I remember asking him that June night if he’d be working down at spring training one more season. He shrugged. I know he’ll be in that Field of Dreams – reporting on the balls and strikes; the wins and losses. We have lost a great soul – If that Field of Dreams in Iowa is heaven – I know Jack is there.

The Girls & Loss

She lived her life and loved it well. What are her “girls” thinking now? Jenny and Todd have had three “rescue” dogs for years. The dogs’ names don’t matter; all I can hear is Jenny saying, “Come on, girls – time for your walk.” Now, I wonder how “the girls” are feeling with Jenny gone…(I had trouble writing that word.)

Voices are very big with me. Jenny had one of those distinct voices – in a very good way. It was a clear voice; a high voice and always (when I heard it) a happy and joyful voice. During our visit exactly a year ago Doug, Adam and I along with Jenny, Todd (the girls), Ron, Iris, their sons, Jake and Ethan and other relatives and friends spent Passover together. There was more laughing and storytelling and the food was ample. Jenny was tired but optimistic as she faced more treatments in the following weeks. Her routine was clear and non-negotiable: she worked out, she had special therapy she felt was good for her mind and soul and she loved planning more trips.

I remember stopping in her open office in their home and noticing the books that all talked of hope and survival. The greeting cards of love and hope – dozens of cards- were taped all around her glorious kitchen where she loved to cook and entertain.

No, I didn’t know her well, but I know I will miss the chance now to know her better. I will think often of Todd and “the girls.” I’ll hope for his healing after this stunning and painful loss he and her family have suffered.  But all of us who knew her feel blessed to have spent a little time with her and felt the love that she felt toward life, her “Toddles” and “the girls.”

“Jenny sees where she’s going;

After a journey so long.

A fight she knew would have some meaning – with so much courage;

Despite the odds.

Her Toddles-her girls-her family-her friends –

Made her smile and laugh that laugh that only means

pure Jenny.”

Rest well.

The Art of Letter-Writing

With respect to the greeting card industry, I have never found a sympathy card that truly reflects my thoughts or feelings about the dearly departed. Sometime between the time I attended my first viewing and when a co-worker’s baby died, I realized I had a knack for expressing condolences in a personal, heartfelt way.

Teaching my class business communications sometimes feels like that proverbial salmon swimming upstream. The mainly twenty-somethings are so intent on texting, emailing and using whatever shorthand they can find, most have never written a heartfelt, handwritten note. When I was growing up, I went to Girl Scout camp. I wrote letters home; my mom wrote back (never my dad) and I remember a boyfriend who also wrote to me and I him. I still have a shoebox stashed in the attic with those handwritten missives.

The other night in class, I was telling the students what an art it is to receive a heartfelt note. While handwritten is best, it’s also a talent to be able to sit at the keyboard and write a letter that includes a memory, a story, or a moment in time that brings a smile to the reader’s face and maybe brightens their day.  Losing a co-worker to an accident or a business associate dying suddenly are examples of why you would have to write a letter of condolence. The looks on my students faces ranged from, “not me – I’ll never have to write THAT letter,” to a look of sheer terror – “WHAT would I EVER say?” I explained that again, you are writing to the reader. You want to make that person feel a little better, if only for the time it takes to read the few paragraphs.

I remember when two married co-workers lost their baby. He’d been sick from the moment he was born and fought for a while, but he died. While I was driving to work shortly before the baby’s death, for some reason I had to drive to work a different way. I remember seeing in the sky above the road a formation of clouds in a circle that seemed to create an opening. At that moment, I felt as though the baby was being called from above – for his suffering to end and he was walking into the heavens above. I wrote something like that to the parents in hopes that they could find some peace.

Maybe you remember a great joke the person told or how they had a fantastic laugh; maybe the person wasn’t so nice but had a terrific knack for organizing events or meetings. Tell the story you know in a brief and heartfelt way and the reader will appreciate your effort.

Meantime, I really wish people would get back to writing cards and letters. The U.S. Postal Service is billions of dollars in the red. Hardly anyone writes cards or letters anymore. The impersonal email has taken over. You barely get a printed birthday card anymore. People send those completely ridiculous e-cards. At the holidays, you may get a batch of greeting cards with a family’s yearly letter – we even send one. I’m wondering how long holiday cards will last and people resort to sending e-holiday greetings.

Perhaps you’ve never written a letter or sympathy card from scratch. You probably have those thoughts churning in your brain. The next time the occasion calls for it, think about pulling out a blank card or notepaper from the desk. You may have to dig deep in the back of a drawer, but I bet that note card is there. It’ll take you a few moments. The results will be straight from your heart – to the reader’s. Now, excuse me while I write to my nephew who’s looking for my next letter.