Last week I released “The Time We Have, The Time We Lost,” my first podcast episode in a year.
The episode was incredibly hard to create, and also incredibly meaningful.
It introduces “Time” as the theme of season two of Life Without Us while sharing a tribute to my greatest community and connection building influence: my mom, Sandy.
We don’t talk enough about grief
We don’t talk enough about grief.
The fact that the culture of most workplaces after losing a loved one is a few days off (if you’re lucky) and a return to productivity is woefully inadequate.
While owning my own business gave me more flexibility, I also know that rebuilding my business after months of limited availability for my clients is going to take significant time.
How might we design work for the reality that almost all of us are going to experience traumatic loss at some point in our working life?
My podcast doesn’t cover this question, but it is one I plan to centre more moving forward in my work as a consultant partnering with people and organizations dedicated to social change.
If you or someone you know is looking for services from a consultant that centres community, I’d love to hear from you.
You can listen to the episode above, and find it wherever you listen to podcasts. Or, please read on for a narrative version.
The time we have, the time we lost
It’s been a long while since we wrapped season one of Life Without Us, and, it breaks my heart to share that my time away was marked by a devastating loss.
I hit pause in the middle of season one of the podcast to be present with my mom as she underwent a lower limb amputation and aggressive chemotherapy following the diagnosis of a rare case of geriatric osteosarcoma.
It’s the type of bone cancer that Terry Fox had, and, just like him, my mom Sandy tried not only to beat it, but to create memories and meaning while she did so.
And, I was determined to help her.
The answer is friendship
We spoke on the phone almost every day this past year and a half, and spent as much intentional time together as possible.
During one of our visits this past summer, after we knew beating it was no longer an option . . . but we were still dedicated to creating memories and meaning, I asked her what she was most proud of (other than the obvious stuff like her family and career-related accomplishments.)
“My friendships,” she answered, without skipping a beat.
And it made perfect sense to me.
Memories and meaning right up to goodbye
It made sense as I witnessed several of her friends come to visit her in the hospital when her health started declining dramatically at the end of July.
It made sense as they and other friends spent hours with her and us at my parent’s home through the month of August as she grew weaker. And, as one of her best friends stood hand-in-hand with our family as we said goodbye to mom on a sunny morning in early September.
When people die, an almost universal reaction is to wish for more time.
I will live the rest of my life with that wish.
My mom died with that wish.
It is what happens when you love.
As I sometimes tell my daughter, in broken French because we’re a Francophone household but it’s not my first language, “l’amour et le manque sont les deux faces d’une même chose.”
Love and missing are two sides of the same thing.
But as much as I’ll spend the rest of my life wishing I could have one more conversation with my mom, what I won’t live with is any regret for the connection we shared in the time we did have together.
And I will always be incredibly grateful for how we showed up in the last year and a half, when I got to join mom in her journey to keep creating memories and meaning right up to goodbye.
“Time” as a theme, and a tribute to my mom
I chose “Time” as a theme for this second season of the Life Without Us podcast before mom hit her sudden mid-summer decline. In fact, while I never got to asking her, I had hoped to have her as a guest on the show this season to talk about her perspectives on nourishing community as a life-long connector.
It didn’t end up making sense once we found out how advanced the cancer had suddenly become. As we learned the cancer had moved to her brain, and she started to experience difficulties speaking.
I’m sure she would have done it anyway, had I asked her. That was just the kind of mom she was. And yes, I do know how lucky I am to have had a mom like that.
But it didn’t feel right asking her to record an episode for all of you, when I knew she was channeling every ounce of energy she had into making just a few more memories with her friends and family.
So, instead of interviewing her, I’m dedicating this season of the podcast to my mom, Sandy, and I’ll share some of the ways I see her in this season’s time-themed episodes.
Where I see my mom in The Time We Have, the Time We Lost
I see her in the first episode of season two, featuring a follow up interview with season one guest, Craig Ruttan.
When Craig and I recorded our first Life Without Us interview in spring 2021, it was just three weeks after he and his co-owners had moved into their new home with a co-created vision for living in community.
In our second interview together, Craig and I talk about how he and his co-owners are doing a year and a half into their shared living situation, and dig into how the development of their laneway house has forced them to have some courageous conversations with their neighbours.
My mom’s dear friend who was with us the morning mom passed away was my parent’s neighbour, two doors down.
Mom made friends in every area of her life, and she treasured all of them.
This season will also offer a view on living in community from a much more distant horizon.
Steve Fick has lived at Terra Firma, one of the Ottawa region’s only cohousing communities, for more than 25 years, and is one of its founders. While we didn’t speak about it in our interview, he shared with me afterward that one of the cornerstones of his long standing commitment to community and collaboration is his Quaker faith.
It meant the world to me that a number of the members of the United Church congregation my family and I were a part of in my youth came to the Celebration of Life we held for mom in late September. Growing up, they introduced me to the feeling of being part of something bigger than myself or my immediate family, and while I no longer identify as religious, I carry with me the lessons they taught me about community in all that I do.
Not every community or connection reaches those kinds of multi-decade milestones. Sometimes, it’s just because life takes us in different directions. And, sometimes it’s because we fail to nourish the ones we treasure most.
This season Tanya Cothran, author of the Platonic Romance substack, joins me to talk more about this in relation to adult friendships. She shares tips on how to navigate the type of big life changes that often impact our friendships over time, like when one friend has a kid, or another one moves, and we reflect together on why we wish more of us centred friendship in our lives.
My mom died at 73 with friends she’d only known a few years and others with whom she’d had fifty-plus year relationships. She loved with a heart that was ever expanding.
While my heart has ached every day since she left us, the love her friends have shown to our family through our shared grief has been a balm.
My mom started with her own corner of the world
Indi and I talk about how it’s long past time to change the narrative around who outdoor adventure is for as we explore the intersection of race, gender, the outdoors, and community building.
Luisa and Luc and I talk about community futures.
My mom believed deeply in the value of community. And, as someone who was a mom to three mixed race kids, a caregiver to one of whom lives with disability, and someone who experienced disability herself in her final years, she was very much aware of the need to address the gaps and exclusions in our society’s current conceptions of community.
My mom was an incredible example of starting with her own corner of the world.
Of inspiring me, and many others, to have more “us” in our lives.
Not because it was always perfect or easy, but because we only have so much time. And even when it is running out, she showed us all, time and time again, that the best way to spend it is together.
The time we have
I dedicate this season to my mom, Sandy.
I will spend the rest of my life wishing we had more time.
And, I am so grateful for the memories and the meaning we created all 42 years of loving each other.
I hope you all find something in my attempt to share a bit of my mom Sandy with you, and from the stories of community and connection I’ll be sharing with you on the podcast this fall.
Stay tuned for new episodes each Tuesday on lifewithoutuspod.com and wherever you find podcasts.
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