“The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.” ~ Robin S. Sharma.
I was already halfway through a nostalgia-filled weekend when I heard the news. I had been following up on family connections having found a website that gives access to birth, marriage and death certificates, and was tracing long lost relatives and my children’s possible great-great-grandmother. I discovered that one of my father’s uncles had migrated to Maine when he was seventeen, and even found a copy of his naturalization paper, with a photograph! He was five foot two with eyes of blue!
When I opened up my messages I saw one from my friend Di. It was written by her husband, letting me know she had died. I have been very lucky in life to have friends that I may lose touch with, but when we get back in touch it is as if the years just disappear. Dianne was one of those.
When I left high school, after living in Jamaica for most of my life, I went back to England as a partial stranger. I may have looked English on the outside, and had some familiarity with the English landscape, but in truth I was a displaced foreigner, pretending to look and act the part. My nursing school (as most of them were in those days) was a residential program. You lived in the residence which was one wing of a sprawling ancient hospital, parts of it built in the 18th century (and definitely haunted!). Knowing no one there (which was true for most of us), I almost immediately bonded with my friend Janet, and not long later with Dianne. They overlooked my ‘strange’ness, they brought me up to date on culture, on the language, and taught me how to drink!
Janet not only became my friend, she took me home with her on some of our vacations and I became a part of her family. Later on Dianne, Janet and I bravely decided to leave the nurses’ residence and rent a flat together! We started out as a foursome, but unfortunately our fourth companion was not as compatible and we became the three musketeers.
When someone dies, a host of memories come flooding back, things you haven’t thought of for ages. Like the time when we went on a daytrip somewhere. I was in charge of the train timetable (I was the most reliable maybe?) only I misread the military time and we got to the train station two hours late! Dianne’s father had to drive some distance to pick us up, and he was not happy!
After nursing school Dianne had gotten married (we were two of her bridesmaids); Janet moved on and I migrated to the US. In those days (who remembers?) we communicated sporadically by airmail letters, and once children started arriving life got busy and letters slowed down.
Her death made me think about people who make an impact on your life, and when they are gone you wonder if they knew, had you ever said in so many words? I had met up with Dianne and Janet a few years ago, and the evening was spent the way many evenings in our flat had gone – listening to music (the Moody Blues was one of her favorites, I sneaked reggae in when I could!), drinking and laughing. I don’t think I ever told her what a difference her friendship had made to me, in a country where my only connections were my siblings, and they were not that close geographically (apart from my brother Andrew, thanks for Christmas dinner and many cups of tea!).
But there have been so many people at different points in my life who have made a significant contribution to who I am. They could have been co-workers; schoolmates; a best friend who is still in my life; or just someone I was close to for a while. Would it be possible to let everyone know what you have meant to me?
We are a product of so many things. The chance that brought a particular ovum and sperm together to create us is unique. And after nature gives us a particularly designed DNA we have all of our life experiences that have nurtured (or traumatized!) us into the parents, siblings, friends, people that we are today. I could not begin to list the names of those people who were in the right place at the right time, to say a word that inspired, or comforted, or made me laugh when I needed it. Whoever you are, whether still alive or not, I hope you know what you mean to me.
We hear often about how important it is to find your purpose in life, or to live your life with purpose, and we are inspired by those who have done great things. But there is plenty of space for little things done often, for small gestures of kindness, for listening when someone just needed to vent, for showing someone a different way of looking at things. Only a few of us get multi-million dollar deals for writing our autobiographies. Most of us are living simple lives far out of the spotlight, but may be just as meaningful in our small pond.
I am still being hit by recollections (most of them bringing a smile to my face). There was the night in the Nurses’ Residence when Janet and I responded to the challenge of the medical students across the courtyard. They would pull out the fire hose and aim them at any windows that were open. We decided to beat them at their own game and fire back! When ‘Sister’ caught us, (wet-handed) we thought we were going to be thrown out of nursing school! Somehow we never got punished, even though the Fire department had to come, empty out the hoses and roll them back up!
This Friday morning I hope you have plenty of such friendships to bring a smile to your face, and plenty of opportunities to let people know just what they mean to you. And in case I never get the chance to tell you, everyone reading this (and many more who don’t) have meant a great deal to me. And if you want to get lost for a couple of hours, go on familysearch.org (a free database of information from around the world), you never know who you may find!
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!