Jennifer, CBB and the End of Faith
When I left my native New Jersey permanently in 2004 I was determined to continue my accounting/finance/organizational development career. The universe had other plans for me. I had worked full time in corporate america, climbing a ladder that I learned was propped up on nothing. I lost my faith – the company that I intended to retire from cast me away like I was useless after eight and half years and the jobs that I had afterward could not keep my interest. There was a car accident, a scary one on a Friday after work, the ONE time that I left on time because I always got there early and stayed late – I was the boss and that is what the boss was supposed to do. The following Friday I was laid off and lost, so very very lost. I lost my faith in all of these things that I had been working so hard toward.
I leaned on my second career, in my work with addictions and counseling. I leaned on my friend and supervisor Jennifer and that work kept me sane while I navigated an unexpected layoff with my husband living across the country. Jennifer was a very no nonsense kind of person – she lived life on lifes terms and I learned so much from her as I was learning to be a therapist and learning more and more about who I was.
Shortly after I moved to Montana in late 2004 she was diagnosed with cancer. Cancer that was missed because Jennifer was not slim was not slender and her stomach issues were dismissed as being related to her size or food choices. By the time that they found the cancer, there was not a lot left that could be done, but she wanted the treatment, she wanted her grand babies to remember her so she fought long and she fought hard. She took the time to come see me when I was back in NJ – I did not have a car, so she came to see me, early in the morning and we had breakfast at the hotel I was staying in. She came to see me, in New Jersey morning traffic – she really loved me and I knew it. I saw her only once again before she died – she was at her home and had not been able to leave in some time – I cherish those memories.
We took a trip together once on a weekend to see my friend and mentor speak –
it was a great trip and a great weekend and I am SO THANKFUL that we had that time together. Somewhere in my move to Montana my pictures of her were lost and I am beyond sad because while I can see her face, hear her voice and smell her perfume I have nothing to put here in this space as I remember her.
I stayed away from therapy for many years after losing Jennifer because she was no longer there to call on, no longer there to ask advice. Without her, I was lost and I did not know how to go on. I was determined to take her with me as well as all of the lessons that she taught me about life and how to care for clients. My famous list of words that clients are discouraged from saying in response to ‘how are you’ was created with her for our clients as she taught me how to get the most closed down angry people to talk and share.
In 2013 I was laid off from the best job that living in Montana had brought to me and that is when I met Cathy – I was applying for job after job after job and I ended up applying for five different jobs with her organization before I found the one – the one that was just right – the one that I still have today. I remember talking to her on the phone for the first time – and feeling connected to her in a way that was wonderful and scary all at the same time.
Cathy believed in me several years before I was ready to believe in myself and she guided me, directed me and encouraged me in a way that channeled Jennifer all over again. I had told Cathy about Jennifer, about the impact that she had on me and she understood.
Because of the loss of Jennifer I was afraid – afraid to trust, to allow myself to get close to a supervisor again. Cathy understood and never pushed me but gently cared and waited for me to be ready to let her in.
I leaned on her, I depended on her and I soaked up all that she had to teach me about being a therapist and a damn good one. Long after her adventures took her away from being my boss, she was there for me, just a call or a text away to listen, to understand and to help me discover the best path to take.
I remember having lunch with her and telling her all about my first Weekend on Forgiveness and Letting Go – she was so excited for me, so proud of me and talked to me about the people that I would help who would help other people and so on and so on. She just understood me and what I wanted to do.
When I learned that Cathy had cancer, my heart sank in a way that I cannot explain. But I had faith, she is young, she is strong, she will survive this. She fought hard, with dignity, even travelling to Sloan Kettering in NYC for the best possible treatment. It was not enough to save her.
As my mother was dying, so was my friend and I was powerless in both situations to do anything. Not long before she died, I asked Cathy to meet for lunch and she told me that she as not sure that she would be able to, but then she texted me that morning to arrange the time to meet. She was thinking of me – she made time for me when she was so weary and so tired and would I am sure have been more comfortable resting at home. When I pulled up to that last lunch, there was a fire truck and I teased her about it – and took a picture of the truck. How I regret not taking a picture of her or of us together because I have none. I always thought that there would be more time – another lunch, another call, another visit. I was wrong.
When I learned that she was gone, that her fight had ended, I started to get angry – it is just not fair. One of the kindest, smartest, most loving therapists and teachers on this planet was gone. The woman who dedicated her life to her amazing children, now adults and to not just her work with children, but to training other therapists to help children was taken much too soon.
I have her picture above my desk at work and each day I think of her, I remember her and when I am not sure about something, I do think – what would Cathy do.
Until forever my friend and my mentor – I will work with every cell of my being to make you proud – to share your kindness, your love, your compassion – all of those things that you taught me.
I cannot see a time when I will regain my faith, Cathy had an amazing faith and love of life.