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InFullBloom Archives

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UPCOMING
Predict and Prepare sponsored by Workday 12/16

PAST BUT AVAILABLE FOR REPLAY
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #171, 2/15
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #160, 8/14
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #145, 1/14
Workday Predict and Prepare Webinar, 12/10/2013
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #134, 8/13
CXOTalk: Naomi Bloom, Nenshad Bardoliwalla, and Michael Krigsman, 3/15/2013
Drive Thru HR, 12/17/12
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #110, 8/12
Webinar Sponsored by Workday: "Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Business Value," 5/3/12 Audio/Whitepaper
Webinar Sponsored by Workday: "Predict and Prepare," 12/7/11
HR Happy Hour - Episode 118 - 'Work and the Future of Work', 9/23/11
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #87, 9/11
Keynote, Connections Ultimate Partner Forum, 3/9-12/11
"Convergence in Bloom" Webcast and accompanying white paper, sponsored by ADP, 9/21/10
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #63, 9/10
Keynote for Workforce Management's first ever virtual HR technology conference, 6/8/10
Knowledge Infusion Webinar, 6/3/10
Webinar Sponsored by Workday: "Predict and Prepare," 12/8/09
Webinar Sponsored by Workday: "Preparing to Lead the Recovery," 11/19/09 Audio/Powerpoint
"Enterprise unplugged: Riffing on failure and performance," a Michael Krigsman podcast 11/9/09
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #39, 10/09
Workday SOR Webinar, 8/25/09
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #15, 10/08

PAST BUT NO REPLAY AVAILABLE
Keynote, HR Tech Europe, Amsterdam, 10/25-26/12
Master Panel, HR Technology, Chicago, 10/9/012
Keynote, Workforce Magazine HR Tech Week, 6/6/12
Webcast Sponsored by Workday: "Building a Solid Business Case for HR Technology Change," 5/31/12
Keynote, Saba Global Summit, Miami, 3/19-22/12
Workday Rising, Las Vegas, 10/24-27/11
HR Technology, Las Vegas 10/3-5/11
HR Florida, Orlando 8/29-31/11
Boussias Communications HR Effectiveness Forum, Athens, Greece 6/16-17/11
HR Demo Show, Las Vegas 5/24-26/11
Workday Rising, 10/11/10
HRO Summit, 10/22/09
HR Technology, Keynote and Panel, 10/2/09

Adventures of Bloom & Wallace

a work in progress

Let’s Talk About Life: The Power Of Memories And Relationships In Coping With The Loss Of My Life Partner

Ron Wallace Late 2018Introduction

Some of you may know that I wrote this widely read blog from November 2009 until my last post in August 2019.  It wasn’t retirement that stopped me from blogging but rather the need to focus 200% on getting Ron through his second bout with cancer.

While I was blogging regularly, about 80% of my many hundreds of posts were intended for the enterprise HR technology community and of no particular interest to all the “normal” people in our lives.  But some of those posts took readers along with me and Ron Wallace, my beloved husband and now of blessed memory, as we went on tour, introduced them to my family and childhood, provided personal growth guidance, and shared some life lessons as I became many years than many decades older than the young professionals to whom I was increasingly an elder stateswoman.

I struggled to keep writing once we began Ron’s 2nd cancer battle in November 2018; I posted for the last time when we learned in mid-August 2019 just how challenging Ron’s cancer journey had become.  Since Ron’s passing last summer, the only real solace I’ve found is in the memories and relationships that Ron and I had nurtured, especially during our half century together.  I hope you will read the entire post below and vow to invest more in making your own memories and nurturing your relationships because I know now how much you’re going to need them.

I don’t know yet what the future of my blog will be or won’t, but I do know that my life without Ron will still be directed at making more memories and continuing to nurture the relationships I cherish.  After six months of picking up the pieces, drawing deeply upon the reservoir of wonderful memories we built together, I now know that I can keep my promise to Ron that I would be okay, that I would continue to live a life that’s worthy of the privilege.

Making Memories — A Life Well-Lived

My father passed away in 1995 just before my 50th birthday, and we buried him on my birthday.  At his funeral, there was quite a crowd, not because of his prominence but because of all he had done for others in the community where he had lived all his life.  Not a man of any wealth, my father had given generously of his time and talents to a range of organizations and individuals, and it was wonderful to hear their stories of how my very humble father had made such an important difference in their lives.  In particular I was struck by the folks, mostly strangers to me, who told me about my Dad’s having taken one of their parents under his wing, going with them to doctors’ appointments, helping them with their bookkeeping, or just taking them out to lunch.  Dad had lived the values of our Jewish faith, of tzedakah and tikkun olam, and in doing so he had earned the warm send-off that he got.

My older sister (there are just the two of us) had also lived her entire life (and still does) in that same or the neighboring community, except when her husband was in law school in DC.  She was surrounded by hordes of people she’d known all her life, many of whom knew each other. They were connected by having gone to the same schools, raised children in the same neighborhoods, attended the same synagogues, shopped at the same markets, connected through work, and the list goes on of ways in which hometown folks are connected directly or through a mutual friend.  I saw how their presence comforted and sustained my sister, and how their shared experiences, recounted for the umpteenth time, renewed their bonds of friendship. I envied my sister the warmth of community, the comfort of familiarity, and the strength that deep roots can provide.  gBut I had chosen a very different lifestyle and, in that song made famous by Edith Piaf, je ne regrette rien.

My life had been lived in many places, and my friends were scattered far and wide.  I was so grateful that several of them had traveled a considerable distance far to be with me on that dreadful day, but I was also struck by the fact that friends from the different parts of my life had never met each other, or met any of my family. Long after we buried my Dad, that thought remained.  I didn’t want my global community of friends and family (including all of Ron’s family, who are centered in the Pacific Northwest) to meet for the first time at my own funeral.

And that’s where the idea originated for my 55th birthday party weekend.  What if we threw a three day party, invited friends and family from all over, entertained them with everything from steel band to mariachis, fed them everything from traditional Jewish soul food to tropical specialties, and made damn sure that everyone got to meet everyone else at a celebration, not of my life but of our collective lives?  What if we planned far enough ahead so that folks could weave a trip to Fort Myers, Florida into their own travel dreams and save up to make the trip possible?  And what if we helped those who couldn’t otherwise join us?  With the help of an amazing party planner, and now one of my closest local friends, we pulled off a party weekend to remember.  Not only was it worth every penny, but we’re all still talking about it. Those memories have gone platinum.

It’s been nearly twenty years since that amazing weekend, and we’ve lost quite a few of the friends who shared it with us, including my beloved husband last summer.  Looking through the pictures of that weekend recently, I was struck by how many of our friends we had lost and how many are battling right now for the chance to create more memories.  In those nearly twenty years, my career was amazing, and it was really wonderful to watch, helping where I could, a new generation or two of colleagues as well as of HR software.  In those nearly twenty years, Ron and I traveled a great deal to places around the globe where we already had friends as well as to places we couldn’t even pronounce and where we knew no one, thus building many more memories.  We sailed the Caribbean, sold our own Caliber 40′ sloop and replaced it with an American Tug 34′ trawler, cruised most of the European rivers as well as several seas and oceans, trekked to Machu Pichu and camped luxuriously at Uluru, and we made many new friends along the way.  From Agatha Christie Festivals in Devon to Ngaio Marsh’s home in Christchurch, we kept on the move, making really wonderful memories, until my longstanding body design flaws caught up with me.  We immersed ourselves in the live theater that we loved, wandered through museums and gardens, and enjoyed as much as possible of what our amazing planet offers.  I began stepping back from my career when my legs just couldn’t carry me at the pace my work required, but Ron and I were able to modify our personal travel style and pacing to accommodate my increasingly wonky and painful legs.  And all that time, from long before my 55th until last summer, we were amassing wonderful memories without ever realizing that they were investments which would pay huge dividends.

When Ron was diagnosed with his 2nd cancer in November, 2018, we thought it would be like his 1st cancer, from which he’d been in remission for more than a decade.  It was another well-known, quite common cancer, with another well-known and very successful chemo treatment protocol, an entirely workable treatment schedule done at our excellent local cancer center, and an excellent prognosis.  Inconvenient to be sure, but nothing to cause any real alarm.  So we cancelled a planned small ship cruise up the Amazon, and flung ourselves into his cancer treatment, managing the inevitable side effects, keeping away from crowds and obvious sources of potential infections, and counting off the treatment days.  As before, Ron handled even this much stronger chemo regimen with his usual aplomb, and he coped reasonably well with the side effects.  He even made light of his chemo-baldness by wearing a red court jester cap, complete with bells, along with his tuxedo to a major fundraising ball.  We really never considered that Ron wouldn’t beat this until that reality couldn’t be avoided.

At first, it looked like the treatment had been a winner, and then it didn’t.  I won’t bore you with the details, but what looked like a temporary inconvenience and a short hold on our travel dreams morphed, along with his cancer cells, into the need for a much more complex treatment protocol, lots more cancelled travel, and considerable uncertainty about when (or later, if) we’d be able to hit the road again and how far Ron’s expected immune system damage would permit us to go.  We had been damn lucky in our lives, and we’d hoped for more of the same.  Ron had access to the best doctors and the latest treatments, and we had great insurance coverage to pay those ginormous medical bills.  When all of these advantages were added to Ron’s otherwise good health and positive attitude, not to mention my research and project management abilities, we were confident that we had the best possible shot at a successful outcome.

When we learned mid-January, 2020, just as the pandemic was coming into focus, that the leading edge CAR-T therapy, for which we’d been residents in Tampa for six weeks while Ron was treated at Moffitt Cancer Center, had failed him, I knew that our time together was coming to an end far sooner than we had ever imagined.  Although I shared the relevant information with Ron, his optimism for that positive outcome never faltered even as I was using all of my energy to care for him and keep my fears to myself.  Those last few weeks in May and June were awful, especially since the pandemic made it impossible for family and friends to be with and support me or to say their goodbyes.  At the end, Ron passed away peacefully, without pain (or the need for any pain meds, so with a completely clear mind), without fear, and just after I had given him my confident answer to the only question which weighed on his mind, my promise that I would be okay.  Neither Ron nor I had firm beliefs about what happens after death, but I’m confident that if there are pearly gates, he lived his life in such a way as to have aced the entrance exam.

Our Memories And Relationships Sustain Me

Between the pandemic and losing Ron, not to mention my own health issues and the inevitable impact of aging, I have no idea when or if I can carry on with our yet to be fulfilled travel dreams, including travel canceled when Ron became ill (e.g. the Amazon’s orchids, Africa’s Great Migration, Papua New Guinea for the annual Sing Sing, India’s Royal Triangle, the Suez Canal and Egypt’s incredible ruins) plus plans in process for revisiting all of our favorite places Down Under, across Europe, and in South America.  I also don’t know when or if I’ll be able to make one more visit with cherished friends and family around the world before age and my wonky legs make many of those trips unachievable.  But as I’ve connected with those same friends and family around the world since Ron’s death, our conversations have always turned to our shared memories, to the time spent together.  Those connections and conversations have helped me cope with the overwhelming grief of losing Ron.

Building memories is so important because they sustain you during the tough times.  And renewing relationships, by investing precious time in them, does the same.  Ron and I were so grateful for all that we were able to do before my legs got wonky and then during his ten years of remission from his first cancer.  We’re especially grateful for the friends/family with whom we spent time, even when time was tight.  Now, when my life is filled with so much uncertainty and I’m preparing for the challenges ahead, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found real joy in remembering the wonderful places, people, and experiences with which we’ve been blessed to fill our lives.  I’ve even used some of those experiences, e.g. sailing into Saltwhistle Bay on Mayreau, dropping anchor, and swimming ashore to the beach bar made entirely of grapefruit-sized, smooth as silk boulders of unknown origin, in one of the visualization techniques with which I help manage my chronic pain.

Just as we should all live healthy lives in order to give ourselves the best possible chance at a long and productive “twilight,” I believe that we should all live lives as large as possible, filled with as many experiences and healthy relationships as possible for the same reason.  When the inevitable shrinking of our world happens with age or illness or whatever, we need to have big balances in our memories and friendship accounts upon which to draw.  I promised Ron that I would be okay at a time when all I really could promise was that I would do my best.  But with the joy of so many wonderful memories and the support of our wonderful family and friends, I know that not only will I be okay but also that I will continue to build memories and relationships for as long as I’m able to do so.  And I urge you to do the same.

P.S.  I haven’t decided yet whether or not I’ll continue writing for my blog, but if I do you can expect a LONG overdue remodeling and content updates.  This is such a out-of-date look and feel.

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