S2Episode12 Acknowledging Pain And Loss

January 26, 2024

Good morning from Milano. I’m sitting here having a leisurely morning and greatly appreciating that my friend Eric who, if you listened to our conversation, you know a little bit about, has a beautiful home just across from the castle in the center of Milan. He’s welcomed me to have an extended stay here and I’m so grateful because I’m having, I guess I’d call it sort of a normal experience.

Last weekend, I ventured out of town to play pickleball with a group of people I had never met. I’m going to the grocery store and eating in a lot. I also get to use his beautiful office just a few doors down. It’s giving me this opportunity to take care of some of my personal administrative business.You know, it’s not like I’m on vacation or having this big adventure. It’s the cadence of a normal life. It feels good to me and it’s bringing up a lot of old memories.

I’m sitting here this morning thinking about something that happened to me many years ago. My first air ‘real job’ in Italy was at the Bugnion patent office.  I worked with a bunch of engineers and it was extremely uninteresting. Even though it wasn’t a real job, it was important for me because it was my first time being in a proper office in Italy. Actually, I remember it was the first time I ever saw a desktop computer. I had to learn word processing and the whole concept was new to me. Anyway, that’s not what I want to talk about.

My next job was with a group of five ambitious young men who had recently resigned from Citibank all together to start a private equity fund. I was their first employee. Now for me that was a very pivotal moment because it was the first time that I was exposed to sort of the upper echelons of Milan. Anyway, the story I want to tell is I remember going to Milan one rainy, overcast day. I pulled up to this super elegant building in a beautiful part of Milan, which was my office building, and there was a light blue ceremonial ribbon around the doorway. It was surprising to see it. As I approached the doorway, just above the panel of buzzers was a photograph of someone who had passed away. Their name, their birth date and passing, and information about their funeral.

I had never seen anything like it or, probably better said, I had never noticed anything of the like. It kind of creeped me out, and when I walked into the office, I made this pronouncement to my boss. I said something along the lines of I find that offensive or that feels like an invasion of my privacy. My boss turned around to me, looked me straight in the eyes, and in reference to that ceremonial ribbon that I had seen, he said that is one of the last great important symbols of a civil society. That is how we signal that we have lost. a friend, a family member, and a neighbor. The intensity of his glare, and the passion with which he spoke, I will never forget. Yes, I felt a little bit humiliated and embarrassed, yet it was one of those important life lessons that I’ve never forgotten.

Now at that time I had only been in Italy three years, and I went on to understand and appreciate the importance here in Italy of acknowledging when someone passes and showing up to funerals. It is always, always appropriate and appreciated when one shows up to a funeral. It’s one of those things where, even if you haven’t been in touch with someone for many years, it’s this powerful way to show respect. And it’s something that Italians greatly appreciate.

In fact, when I came to Italy around Christmas time, I reached out to the best friend of my former husband (who has since passed away), Mario. I wanted to say hello and suggest that we get together for a coffee or something. He called me strait away and told me that his brother was in the hospital. His brother passed away a few short days after our call.   So here I found myself, truth be told, in the situation that I didn’t want to go to the funeral. But I was faced with that question do I show up out of respect for Mario or do I let myself run with this story that it would be weird to show up because I hadn’t seen his brother, who’s name I could barely remember, for 20 years. And I’ll admit I went back and forth on it until the last minute.

Of course I went.  Mario was my husband Marco’s lifelong best friend. It felt good to show up and to acknowledge his loss. I could go on and on here about what a great experience I had, how important it was and the things that came into my head, seeing all of these people from the first 12 years of my life here in Italy. We’re talking some 40 years ago. But I’ll spare you from that and end by simply saying that when you are that person who is struggling, who is schlepping back and forth to the hospital to take care of a parent, or you’re ill, or you’ve lost someone, those are the tough moments when it’s so comforting and meaningful to be seen and acknowledged.

Speaking for myself, I can remember it like it was yesterday. The loneliness and the long days when my mother and my sister were passing, and the hours and hours in the hospital when my father had his accident. I craved connection with the outside world and being seen and acknowledged with text messages and calls and notes mattered so, so much.

So there you have it. That’s what I’ve got for you today. Until next time, from my heart to yours.

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dear Listeners,

Friends say I live my life out loud. That’s because I’m a curious, adventurous person and, as an appreciator, I simply love to share what lights me up. Consider this is your invitation into my fun, multi-faceted world.

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