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  • Tracy Hooper

Show Up for Farewells

Recently, my husband Henry and I went to the funeral of a dear friend. He was 72, had cancer, and died too young. He and his wonderful wife raised terrific children, now young adults. They’re around the ages of our daughters. And as I sat in the church, which was packed with family and friends and neighbors and former colleagues, I thought, “It’s important to be a part of farewells. To be together. It builds community. Henry and I didn’t know most of the people at the funeral, but it was uplifting to sit together and listen to the music and the eulogies. Five people spoke. It was so cool! We learned about our friend's professional accomplishments that he never bragged about. And what a loyal friend he was. And his tender traits as a dad. I felt connected to the other people there, simply because we were all together at this funeral. We were, for that brief time, a community of unity. Later, I texted our daughters, “It was a celebration of ‘a life well lived,’” but my phone kept autocorrecting to, ‘a life well LOVED.’ And I thought, “Yeah, a life well LOVED.” I’m telling you this because if someone you know has died -- a relative, friend, neighbor, co-worker, former boss --- I encourage you to go to their funeral or memorial service. If you have a non-urgent meeting, postpone it. Even if you don't know the person well, make the effort to support their family by showing up. Help fill up that gathering place. And if you feel uncomfortable, here are some easy “starter questions.” “How do you know the person?” Or “What’s your connection to the person?” It may feel awkward, but only for a second. Then say, “Wasn’t the service beautiful?” Or “I’m grateful to have worked with him. He was such a great guy.” Or “She represented our company well.” Or “I never knew about all of their accomplishments. They were humble.” What about other farewells? Do you have a colleague who's leaving your company for a new opportunity? Go to their farewell party. If someone is retiring, go to their retirement gathering. You don’t have to stay long. And tell them, “I’ve appreciated working with you.” Or “You taught me how 2to think more strategically.” Or “Thank you for being a champion of my work. I’ll always remember you for that.” Give them a compliment, thank them, wish them well, and say goodbye. If the “farewell” is out-of-town and you can’t go, send a handwritten note to the person who’s leaving the organization, or to the family of the person who’s passed. It’s better than a text or email. And, a card, with your personal note, could be a treasure that people will savor forever. With so much discord in our world, make time to celebrate other people. And I believe your presence for them, will lift you up, as well.

Thanks for reading.

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