A young friend of mine this week took his own life. David was a gentle soul I first met as one of my children's friends. Over time he spent more and more time at our home, playing his music, experimenting with his gourmet recipes, and most of all, talking. He asked for career coaching and I was honored to do so. We all rejoiced in his discovering himself. He had just successfully completed his second year in law school. Then, this week, we got the news. I thought I was all cried out until his uncle opened the memorial service today with Bob Dylan's Knockin' on Heaven's Door.
The rabbi leading the service named the myriad and conflicting emotions coursing through each of us: sorrow, grief, depression, anger, anxiety. He then echoed the questions on many of our minds. Why? What could I have done? Who's to blame? He went on to suggest that those questions lead us only to despair, down a dark rabbit-hole. The road to hope, he suggested, lies with a different set of questions. What did his life stand for? What can we do each day to honor his legacy? It got me thinking. Through my tears, I began to wonder, how will I answer?
As I wondered, the rabbi provided an opening as he quoted from Merger Poem by Judy Chicago: "And then compassion will be wedded to power, And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind." Wow. What better way to remember David than to work every day to bring these about. I reflected on the Organization Design Forum annual meeting going on this week and next. Sally Parker and William Zybach and I gave the first presentation. In our preparations we kept coming back to the importance of addressing organizations as living systems, combining their mechanistic structures with humanistic approaches and mindsets. Many of the other presentations reinforced the same messages.
So today, in my grief, two of my different worlds came together. Every indication was that David was on track to combine his legal training, his love of music, his gourmet cooking, and his passion for people into a force for creating a softer, kinder world. A world that perhaps might have helped him cope with his own demons. I'm beginning to understand that my work every day is an opportunity to help my clients see their humanity, acknowledge and heal their wounds, and wed compassion to their power. All of this in service to my friend David's memory.