Posts Tagged ‘family’

After death

Between discussions on religions, the anniversary of my father’s death, and a book I just read, I got to thinking about that old question, what happens to us after we die. I certainly don’t picture the kind of heaven where people in white robes sit on clouds and pluck harps, and I don’t believe in hell at all.

But everything leaves something behind. Our molecules break apart as we are digested by worms, but what we really want to know, of course, is what happens to our consciousness, our spirit, our soul.

On Sunday afternoon we took a walk on the beach and for a while sat on a wonderful old redwood stump. My eyes and fingertips could read so much history in its grain: a tree growing gnarled and imposing in life, chopped down and the stump uprooted, probably tumbling into a stream to reach the sea, buffed and smoothed by the waves, then at long last come to rest on the beach in a semblance of life.

A lot of this happened after the tree was cut down, the events still leaving marks in the wood. The tree is dead, and yet it continues to age, to hold the tree-like shape, to be part of the world. Maybe our lives are a bit like that: after we are gone there is a memory, in the shape of our spirit, still interacting with the warp and weft of life. It’s in the way we live our lives, the legacy we leave, the grain and polish of our deeds and the way they marked others.


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It’s time for the inescapable recap of what was for me, like for so many, a year of jolts and changes.

The year started relatively well; I was one of the only people at my company to get a bonus despite lean times, for having fully achieved my 2007 objectives. The first few months of the year included some very good, treasured moments in my personal life: family, friends, hobbies. They also included physical therapy for a torn meniscus, which happily seem to have taken care of the problem.

May 2008 marks the end of another phase of my life. In short, I lost my father; and it was the end of nine years in the same job, city, and even house. What was really a mess was that the loss of my job and the death of my father happened within four days. It was fortunate that I had started my job search immediately and had registered for unemployment benefits; when the call came from my brother, I dropped everything and flew out to Canada. I’ve already talked about the funeral in other posts and I think I will leave it at that. Not a fun time.

In retrospect, being laid off should have been no surprise at all. Work had been awfully sparse since I had returned from my last vacation at the end of September 2007. In October 2007, I had been pursued very actively by a potential employer, so I had discussed the prospects with my CEO and been assured my place was secure. Looking back, the intelligent thing to do would have been to start an active search, but I didn’t.

On the plus side, I had copies of of my resume and my contact list, but they were a few months old at the time I was laid off. I had also, thankfully, been introduced to LinkedIn by a friend early in 2008, and had started building an online network even though I was not looking for a new job.

A close friend had decided to leave her current employer, which looked to be in unhealthy financial shape, so we shared information about job postings, good sources of information, job search tools, etc. Between LinkedIn, JibberJobber and my slightly aged but still useful files, I reconstructed my resume and contact database, better than before.

During the job search process, I brushed up on several skills and reconsidered the whole picture: my expectations, competences, habits, assets, etc. Looking for work is a chore, and I was determined that going through that chore would get me more than a new desk to do the same thing from. I’ve been making efforts to incorporate into my work habits what I learned from the job search process.

On the personal front, it was very hard to move away from so many friends. Our schedule in Seattle was very full with activities and we were blessed with many friends. I’m grateful for the Internet; e-mail, Facebook, LiveJournal and Skype have helped us stay in touch but it’s not the same as being there. This is also the year where I split my personal and professional blogs and started using WordPress for the latter. I replaced a lot of my previous face-to-face activities with more online activities.

Yet moving back to Humboldt County was a treat. Leaving this place back in 1999 had been heart-breaking; it’s one of the most beautiful and interesting places I know. But I wonder how long it will take us to make friends again. People here are friendly and helpful, so I have hope. This also gave us a chance to reconnect with some of our friends in the Bay Area, friends we had not seen in three or four years.

In 2008 I’ve learned (from least personal to most) that:

  • Even after years of happy employment, I can’t fully trust an employer. I should always be ready to scramble for a new job.
  • Employment is a business relationship. It’s good to be pleasant, chummy, cheerful, etc., but it should not be confused with anything more. When you’re voted off the island, the niceness stops instantly.
  • My career is not my job. I should plan for things I want to do, learn, and accomplish for myself as part of my career — not just as needed for a specific job.
  • I have value as a professional and there are many opportunities open, but I have to pick a direction.
  • Even I can learn to “network”.
  • I’m not good at managing personal finances and I need to improve quickly if I don’t want to be destitute at then end of my career.
  • Sometimes, I don’t know best — I have to take advice and help from the pros.
  • My parents left me a treasure trove of good advice, inspiration and examples, but it’s really the mix of the two, mom and dad both, that makes me strong.
  • My family and friends are shelter and support in times of trouble.
  • My husband is my best friend and the greatest source of joy in my life.

Finally, 2008 also gave me hope on another scale.  It’s been a very bad year around the world on most fronts: political, human, economic, environmental, social.  But it’s also the year when American voters decided they needed change.  As a non-citizen, I can only observe and cheer or deplore; I can’t vote (though I pay taxes and, if I wanted, could serve in the military…)  The last eight years have been extremely bad for this country and for the world.  I’m not sure whether the average American realizes just how badly  their country has been hurt by its own administration.  I can only hope that voters will not immediately go back to apathy but will continue to demand change.

Good luck to us all for the future, in 2009 and beyond.

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It’s fall the end of the harvest season, the beginning of the holiday season, and the time to remember our reasons to be grateful. In Canada, we had our own Thanksgiving a few weeks ago (there isn’t as much to feel grateful for in Canada in November — it’s cold, wet, biting and dark.) In the U.S., Thanksgiving is tomorrow.

First off, I’m grateful for getting back on my feet and finding a new rewarding job after losing my employment of nine years this summer. I’m grateful to my husband, family, and friends who gave support and encouragement when times were bad. I’m grateful I learned and grew through the experience. I’m grateful for my new colleagues and the warm welcome I’ve received.

I’m grateful my family pulled together in love and dignity when my father passed away in May. I’m grateful for the heritage of principles and good memories dad left us.

I’m grateful the U.S. voters moved away from the last eight dark years. I’m grateful the new team seems to have a clue.

I’m grateful Humboldt is still a place that feels humane and warm and genuine. I’m grateful it’s brimming with natural beauty and still somewhat protected.

Most of all, I’m grateful for my husband.

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