• Jim Donaher

Grief Tinged With Joy

A couple of months ago, I wrote about a dear friend who was in the late stages of a battle with brain cancer.

She had gone into inpatient hospice care, but unlike most who reach that stage of illness, she actually went home. It was her preference to be at home, and her condition had improved to the point where that was possible. And so, it happened.


It is with great sadness, with a healthy amount of relief and joy to report that my friend AMO has gone to heaven to wait for the rest of us. She won't be waiting alone as she will be surrounded by family and friends who had been cheering for her and who will welcome her with, as I told her the last time we spoke, with the biggest standing ovation she's ever seen or heard.


Well, that ovation is probably still going on a week after she left us. But despite the sadness of her passing out of our day-to-day lives, we're left with the blessing of having known her.


Last night, friends and family gathered to remember her and to comfort her beloved husband, son, father, mother, and two brothers. The universal comment was how much everyone loved AMO, and how much she loved everyone.


We commented on her constant, sincere smile, her buzzing activity, always seeking to support, help, and ease the burdens of those she worked with. Nothing was outside her job description. Nothing was ever left undone.


She worked at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island for 46 of her 65 years on this earth. People just don't do that anymore. But she found a good thing when she was nineteen years old, so why change it? It worked for her.


And it worked for BCBSRI too. She was a great employee, a great teammate, a great trainer, mentor, and administrative support professional.


But much more important than her considerable professional skill set, were her kindness, compassion, and all-encompassing desire to help others.


As a recently arrived exile from Massachusetts working for a third-party vendor in what was probably my last corporate assignment, AMO took me under her wing. She got me set up with all the things I needed to get settled, and then checked in with me regularly. She seemed to sense that I was lost, so she befriended me and the other members of our team who were similarly lost. With AMO, we had a friend on the inside.


She sincerely loved us, as she sincerely loved all the people she worked with. We all felt it, and in whatever way we could, we returned it. And for those of us who, like me, got much more from her than we gave, we got together last night in one final effort to even the accounts.


And even though we still are in her debt, we are blessed with the opportunity to go on. And in so doing, we can choose how to move forward in a way that will honor her memory. We can think of what AMO would do when we see someone who is struggling, who is unsure, who is nervous, or overwhelmed, or confused, whether at work, in a family, on a team, at school, or anywhere. We can reach out. We can do what we can to help.


She was that person.


And when she arrived in heaven the other day, she must have been overwhelmed by everything she saw. The beauty and majesty of all that surrounds her makes the Grand Canyon look like a minor pothole on a Providence side street.


And right then, Jesus walked up to her, put His arm around her shoulder and welcomed her with the words we all want to hear Him say when we reach that fateful day:


"Well done, good and faithful servant!"


Thank you for everything, AMO. Rest in His perfect peace.


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