Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Loss & Life

It was the action-packed climax to The Dark Knight Rises and I happened to notice that familiar light from my phone in my purse. Knowing that my son was with a friend, I checked it to make sure everything was ok. There was something wrong, but it had nothing to do with him.

It was a news bomb. And it was so shocking that I couldn't believe it and so sad that I don't remember much of what happened during the final 10 minutes of the movie. One of the giants of our Union, a man who I deeply respected, a brilliant strategist, and an inspiration to many, had drowned while on vacation with his wife in North Carolina. He had just wrapped up negotiations on a tentative agreement for workers at AT&T (yes, while he was on vacation.) He was in the ocean with his wife and in what should have been a happy, relaxing moment, he was taken from us much too soon.

I struggled to find more information and to confirm that this news I was hearing was really true. (How could it POSSIBLY be true?) I felt lost and allowed myself to make my way to his Facebook page. Friends had already started leaving notes in memory to him. The tears started to well up even though I was still in shock. I left my own brief note, amazed at how social media has become a comforting place for people to gather in grief.

By the next day, I noticed the first news article about his passing, posted by someone on Facebook: Labor leader Seth Rosen dies in North Carolina swimming accident. It was then that I realized how very real it was that my Union brother was gone. This wonderful man who could always think up a new organizing strategy, who was a true intellectual, who I knew truly cared about me and my life outside "the Union", would not be there at our next CWA Organizing Retreat or at our Convention in 2013 in Pittsburgh. There would be no more laughs over drinks or debates over organizing strategies or hearing about his music gigs. I cried and cried.

And I once again resolved that I would spend my moments living as if these may be the only moments I have left. It may be cliche, but I do like the way that changes my approach to life. It makes me notice the relationships that need to be reconciled, the people I need to reach out to, the places I want to go, and the things I want to do. But it also helps me recognize the importance of the work I do and how much every little thing can matter. Reading through the comments people have left on Seth's Facebook page and on his Memorial Page, I have been struck by the number of people touched during his many years working for justice. At that moment I tweeted this along with the link to the Plain Dealer article: "I am just so very sad to lose Seth. May I touch even half of the many lives he did."

On Saturday, Domani and I went with my brother-in-law, niece and nephew to the Mets game. We had a great time. I will not soon forget their happy faces and I'm thankful the Mets gave us a few things to cheer about even though they couldn't pull out the win (what else is new recently?!). That night, the little guy had a sleepover at my parents' house and I enjoyed a night out with my friend who was visiting from Buffalo. We went to see Hot Chip perform at The Electric Factory and then went out to a few bars. I danced and danced and danced - so much so that I ached in the morning. I introduced the New Yorkers to late night Wawa and I didn't get home until 4am. And it was perfect. I felt so alive.

The next day it was church and some mother/son nap time before we traveled up to a friend's house on Lake Owassa in Sussex County. Domani was not so interested in the lake once he realized he couldn't touch the bottom, but had a great time filling up the kiddie pool with water from the lake and splashing around. We had dinner, relaxed, and I even found some time to read a book. At the end of the day as I was lying in bed with very heavy eyelids, I was thankful. It had been a full weekend.

A fellow CWAer, Tim Schick, left the following message on Seth's page shortly after his death: "A visionary is someone who plants trees under whose shade they will never sit. Seth worked hard planting many trees. We will miss you." Indeed, Tim, indeed.

As I think back over this weekend, I am still sad, but I am also thankful to Seth for the moving example of what it means to live and love and... plant trees. It's a reminder to me that everything we do is building a certain type of life in a certain world. It's up to us to choose each day to make each of those the best they can be.

Early Saturday morning, I made my Twitter resolution: "Seize the day people. Seize the damn day. #youneverknow"

I hope to plant lots of trees, both personally and professionally. And while I hope that I have many more years of planting trees left in my life, my goal is to go bold into each day knowing that if it is my last I have lived fully, loved with all my heart, and left behind a witness to my faith which is what drives it all for me.

I know that Seth would at least occasionally read my blog and that when I posted my piece about organizing two weeks ago, it had landed on his radar screen. I know it because I remember smiling when I got a notification that he "liked" the post on Facebook. I had a lot of respect for Seth's vision when it came to organizing and always found him to be inspiring. It meant a lot to know that he had noticed what I wrote - I only wish he were still here to read about whatever comes next in my world of organizing.

Rest in peace, Brother Seth. You will be missed and never forgotten. As you would have wanted it we will continue to organize, organize, organize and yes, there will be music and dancing in our revolution.
CWA Press Release on the Loss of Seth

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