People sometimes ask whether working at Legacy.com and dealing with death and grief every day makes it easier to deal with losses in our own lives. For me, the simple answer is…no. But being exposed daily to others’ grief and loss has helped me realize that I need to give myself space and time to grieve, and that my experiences with handling grief will be different from one day to the next and one year to the next.
This weekend, I noted with sadness the three year anniversary of the passing of a friend – Martha Rubenstein. Martha worked for Legacy.com for 5 years – starting as a part-time content screener and eventually serving as our full-time Human Resources Manager. She was vivacious, funny, and supportive.
In the winter and spring of 2007, Martha had a never-ending cold. After months of sniffles and coughs, she confessed that it wasn’t a cold – she was battling lymphoma. What we didn’t know was that throughout those months, she was receiving chemotherapy and then coming in to work right afterward as if nothing was wrong. She successfully fought it off that first round, and only shared her diagnosis with us when the lymphoma returned for a second round. Despite a valiant battle, Martha died from complications from lymphoma on June 11, 2008. I was devastated by the news, and shared my condolences with her husband in her online Guest Book:
“As Legacy’s Human Resources Manager, Martha impacted hundreds of lives. She was the first face of Legacy for every team member we hired, and her joy for her work and dedication and love for the company shone through in each interview. With her smile and welcoming manner, she put interviewees at ease and helped them recognize what a special place Legacy is to work. And Martha played a huge part in making it a special place. She worked tirelessly to ensure that we treated our employees consistently and fairly, but more importantly…that we approached every team member in a friendly, warm, encouraging manner. It is very difficult to imagine life at Legacy without Martha. But I take comfort in knowing that her legacy will carry on for years to come.
Martha and I worked closely together, and much of who I am as a manager was shaped by the knowledge she shared and support she offered. She guided me through challenging personnel matters, and made me smile and laugh when I most needed to. But most of all, Martha was my friend. And I will miss her greatly.”
With time, the pain of my grief has lessened. In place of the many tears I shed in the first few months, I now find myself smiling at the many happy memories and funny moments I shared with my friend. And I think that’s exactly what Martha would want.