What do you say when you lose someone?
I am still reeling from the December 29 passing of my dear friend and mentor, Lee Moczygemba. I first met Lee 25 years ago when I moved to Austin. I clearly remember sitting at lunch with a past president of the Austin Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She gave me her card with a name on the back:
You see, Lee was the role model for professional speakers in Austin, beyond Austin, and beyond speaking. She had also formed a Speakers Bureau – a company that markets speakers for corporate training, conferences, and keynote speeches. In later years, she coached dozens of professional speakers, helping them hone their storytelling skills.
Lee took me on and helped me create my first “Speaker’s PR Kit.” She got me a few engagements, and I made her proud. About 5 years later, we became friends. Over the years, she took the place of my mother, who passed in 1998. Lee was the first person I called to share news – bad or good. She ALWAYS sought to uplift my spirits, and I hope I did the same for her.
No one has ever wished harder to live to be 100 than Lee. She died at 97-1/4. It’s not so important that she never made it, but that she lived so well on the way there. I might have to write a whole book about what I learned from Lee. Some things I saw from her excellent example, and others I learned because I saw her suffer. Here are a few ideas that top the list:
- Keep making friends, all through your life: Lee “collected” talented people who became her special projects and special fans. She would always excitedly tell me about some impressive young person she had just met. (Some of the “young” new friends were 60+.)
- Don’t fixate on age. She encouraged everyone to say, ”I’m ONLY XX.” If you feel good and have a purpose in life, your age doesn’t matter.
- Connect with people you love, consistently. Nearly every workday, I would call Lee at 4:30 to see how she felt, and hear what she had done that day. It was a wonderful way to mark the days and become more intimate in our conversations. Since creating this tradition with Lee, I have set aside special times each week when I talk to my two sisters and two close friends who live half a world away. The relationships have grown and developed beyond my hopes and dreams!
- Have a project that you love to occupy your mind. Lee was writing a memoir. I kept urging her to finish it for her 90th and 95th birthday celebrations. But I think the unfinished project really gave her something important to work on, whenever she could.
- Forgive and apologize. People are precious and unique. Each one brings something special into your life. Forgive people when they hurt your feelings, slight you, ignore you, even ghost you. You don’t know, until you ask, what they are going through. If you have a misunderstanding, apologize. (Usually, both parties need to.) Repair relationships whenever you can.
- Always look forward to tomorrow. Lee could always find something to laugh about, something to pray about, and something to hope about, no matter what. She enthusiastically looked forward to each luncheon, each shopping trip, every movie. Life was truly an adventure for her.
I am richer because she was in my life. Her legacy of wisdom, enthusiasm, and hope live on in me.
What do you say when you lose someone? Thank you.