Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Bag of Roses

I have a bag of roses, a cup full of M&Ms, and a dark office. The roses were given to each of the Rose Community Foundation family to wear at Sheila’s funeral today. The M&Ms were Sheila’s favorite candy. The dark office is because she is gone now.

Those who know her best are at the cemetery, lowering her body into the ground. I am here in this office where she lived her dream of helping others, where she gave direction, inspiration and the whole of her being for the last eighteen years. I am here, writing down what Sheila meant to me.

Two years ago at my interview, I came in with a spring in my step. I had a purpose, and I had come to Rose as a part of that. I had been told that as a leader, Sheila was “the real deal,” and after the first minute of talking with her, I knew it was true. She had too many talents to catalogue: her keen mind, her ceaseless curiosity, her drive for excellence, her attention to detail and so many more. But her real magic was how she could make a person feel known and cared for. In that interview, I mentioned my love of science fiction and fantasy, both in books and movies. She mentioned that she had a Star Wars poster from her son’s childhood, and that she thought she still had it lying around her house somewhere, and that she would bring it in for me. With her keen insight, she spotted the parts about me that I liked the most, and let me know that those things were important to her. She had the power to make a person feel relevant, important, empowered.

As I worked with her, I saw her use this magic on Trustees, staff, and community leaders every day. She lived to serve, and her service took the form of enabling others to do good works. She made them feel larger in the exact ways they wanted to feel larger, then set them free to do large things in the world. She has given so much to so many, has stewarded the interests of the community with an open heart and wise counsel, but her greatest gift is in how she made others feel.

You will be missed, Sheila. I don’t know what the Foundation will look like without you, but I know that because of you, I will always think of how I can best serve others. I will think how I can make others comfortable, help them feel inspired about those aspects of themselves that they hold most dear.

I have a bag of roses, an empty cup of M&Ms, and a dark office. Rest in peace, Sheila. Thank you so much. Thank you for everything.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou

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