(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

sad and yet affirming news.

Yesterday I found out that a casual friend and former colleague, Cheryl Hoffman, passed away. Cheryl and I worked together up until the time I formed my corporate exit. She too had left work ... but for medical issues.

We were not close friends...but we did share the experience of being the only females in our corporate management reporting group ... and had some laughs as a consequence. Our styles were very different ... but some of our work-related experiences were the same ... facing the unique challenges affecting women in corporate america, striving for leadership positions. She was single and, like me, had a wild streak. She had a delicious laugh and an expressive twinkle in her eyes.

After I left and moved to France, out of the blue I received an email from Cheryl. Now, we weren't close enough to have stayed in contact after I left my employ. But she had contacted me (through my blog) and inquired if she could come visit. She had a friend who had ties in France and had planned an extended visit to Europe. I said sure ... after all, they were wanting a hotel ... not my ramshackle mess. Apparently, she had been following my progress and wanted to see what was up first hand.

Cheryl was battling cancer, and had won the first round. After her treatments ... she was on the mend and doing all she could to get the most out of life. I booked their hotel, they arrived and we spent a lovely September day together. We shared some laughs and told some old stories and drank some wine. Later, they splurged and ate at the Michelin star restaurant in town! we visited and toured Brantôme ... checked out the grottoes and little museum and other tiny sights my village had to offer. They got to see the Friday market and all its little antics.

We actually had some open moments ... probably more open than when we worked together. And she was so encouraging about my adventure. As crazy as it seems (the adventure, not her encouragement!)

They only spent the one evening and then went on for other adventures. I didn't hear much more from her this year, until in September when I reached out to last year's visitors for a hello.

Cheryl was in fine spirits, although she had faced a second round of treatments and such with her cancer reappearing. She was planning a round the world tour, told me her recovery was on track and commented upliftingly about my new life.

On December 22nd, she passed. I don't pretend to know all the details or to claim the loss of an intimate friend.

I do know, that but for life's crazy dice tosses ... her story and mine could have been switched.

I do know that it is possible that we both had already wasted too many years doing things that didn't provide succor to our souls and spirit.

I do know that Cheryl felt compelled to work longer than she should have ... solely to retain medical coverage, not only for her latest battle but for other issues that would have been considered 'pre-existing' and would have bankrupted her.

I do know that she made the most of these last years she had, packing in as much travel and dreaming as humanly possible when one is fighting for one's life.

I do know I can't change or regain the hours and days and weeks and years I may have wasted. For me, I choose to have no regrets. To celebrate the fact that I am on a new path. The path that was once a dream, but that I chose to make a reality.

I do know that all of these facts are lessons for me (and hopefully you too) and affirm the need for us to face our fears ... whether real or societally imposed ... and do everything we can to make this one life we are certain of the best it can be for us. The best we can dream of. The best we before only imagined. and we all need to do it now. today. this instant. A life of regrets is not the life we each deserve.

It doesn't take wealth or perfection or superhuman courage to live the best life you can. It just requires discovering (or admitting) what that best, most desired REAL life might be ... and then showing up every day to try ... to take that step to build the path that gets you as close to it as you can. for that day. and the next. and the next. tenacity. yep, it takes a touch of that.

I wish you peace and love and courage, Cheryl.

and I do know she wished that for me.


The Pliers said...

A lovely and honest remembrance of your acquaintance and coworker whose loss of life has served to put your seizing of the day in context and perspective.

I think of such things every time I succeed in getting my needs met in a foreign language, stand beside an ancient stone arch or on a turquoise-water outlined beach of baby powder-fine white sand, or slip into a once-sacred well of clear fresh water held in the cradle of shell-embedded limestone shelf of earth.

I think, in fact, of how little it took, in many ways, to accomplish it once I decided to just leave home.


Stacey said...


Randal Graves said...

That discovering/admitting first step is, like the first step in every other human endeavor, the hardest to take, by far.

amy said...

Funny how people we think are just acquaintances can sometimes have a bigger impact on our lives (and vice versa) than ones we spend so much time with we take them for granted. Maybe there's less self involved in confronting the loss too - there's not a specific void left in daily life so much as a void in general when someone we didn't know well, but thought well of, is gone? I think you did a fine job of honoring Cheryl - it sounds like your brave move to France helped inspire her.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

pamela-yes, we are lucky to be in the 'place' we are.


rg-so true and yet so necessary.

amy-thanks and interesting perspective, I think there's definitely some truth in that.

Kathleen said...

Such wonderful words Kimberlee... I knew Cheryl a bit myself and I am so sorry to hear of this. I remember you telling me how much you enjoyed seeing her when she visited Brantome. My father just died this morning, 84, having lived a full life and when the moment came, letting out a big sigh, smiling and then letting go.. no pain, just one last breath. Whether we die young or old.. every moment, every breath counts.