I have been an addictions counselor for 27 years, and have worked in the same place for that entire time. I will be retiring from my full-time job on July 12th of this year. I haven’t officially filed the paperwork yet, but that will be a formality. I am prepared to close this chapter of my life and not look back.
I will miss many of the staff that I have met over the years, and the day-to-day contacts with the patients. I am retiring mainly because I don’t share the work system’s values and priorities anymore, and I can’t pretend that I do. I will simply channel my energy into more of the things that I am passionate about: teaching, bereavement support, workshops and writing.
I am also going to do some fun stuff that I didn’t have time to pursue due to my daily work responsibilities. I don’t yet know what the fun stuff is going to be, but it will become clear to me in time.
Recently, I started the unenviable task of going through 27 years of materials that I have accumulated. I have shred eight large garbage bags worth of paper that have no relevance to me now. I still have several more binders of relevance to sort out before I retire. In the process of going through the first mounds of paper, there were two files that I kept. One was a power point presentation from 1996 and the other was staff correspondence that I accumulated between 2002 and 2003.
The power point presentation was given by a committee, of which I was a member. The task of our committee was to identify opportunities to improve our agency’s performance in a certain area. The presentation was made to reviewers from the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Hospital Organizations. Our facility was going through a re-accreditation process and our committee’s presentation was an important part of that.
The presentation was well received and we ended up getting a commendation from our director because of our performance. The presentation had more significance because my supervisor and mentor Don, who died of cancer in 1998, was instrumental in teaching us the lessons that helped us put our best foot forward.
I kept the presentation because it will always be a reminder to me that the world lost one of the most brilliant and creative thinking individuals I know. He taught me how to treat people, manage treatment teams, and become a better person, therapist and a parent. He was also instrumental in helping my daughter Jeannine get through some challenges in her early adolescent years. His guidance helped Jeannine eventually find her path and focus.
I took Jeannine to see Don the day before he crossed over. His body was ravaged with cancer, but his spirit was irrepressible. I will always remember the smile on his face when he saw Jeannine. He called her “kid”; Jeannine loved him as a second father. I loved Don too, and still do.
Jeannine died at the age of 18 on 3/1/03 due to a rare form of cancer. As I reviewed the staff correspondence between 2002 and 2003, I realized that I kept it because it put a smile on my face. I will keep that correspondence because it is a reminder that we can find light in our darkest days and eventually that light transcends to hope and a desire to make our lives meaningful again. It will also remind me to tell the newly bereaved that it is ok to smile and that smiling does not disrespect the memory of our loved ones.
Sorting through my work files represents for me a work-life review. I hope to discover many more connections and lessons that will serve me, my students and bereaved individuals well as I prepare to embark on a new chapter in my life.
David Roberts 2012