Likely disclosing my age with the comments that follow. The other evening I was getting ready to shut down my computer when I decided to check my email account one last time. An email from a business associate sadly announced the untimely death of a mutual friend and member of the National Association of Women Business Owners NYC Chapter. Kethrin Gentile was one of those lovely people who always was willing to pitch in and lend a helping hand to associates as well as working diligently for the benefit for the organization. Although I knew Ket was seriously ill, having met her for lunch a few months ago, I got the impression she was out of the woods. I still don’t know what exactly happened because by the time the email reached me early that evening, the wake was over and the funeral mass which was scheduled for early the next morning, was about 150 miles from where I was. There was no way I could get there.
This is the first time I experienced the shock of death via email. Must say I was startled. There was no one to talk to. I experienced an ache in my heart. A flurry of email responses followed from other women equally as startled as I at this news.
Grief is an important aspect of life. How do we grieve in the world of twenty-four hour electronic communication? I realized today another friend probably hasn’t heard about Ket’s passing. The dilemma do I send an email or do I call her? I chose to call her only to get her voice mail twice. What kind of message does one leave?
This age of instant communications and messaging perhaps requires some new rules. Another colleague put it aptly when she said “There is no off button in our lives anymore”. Can we stop long enough to acknowledge the departed? Experience our own response to the news? Human interaction, comforting, holding literally and figuratively, is so important to the grieving process. Coupled with the context of cultural mores this is a complex aspect of life.
I’ve been writing for almost two years on the subject of organization and employee engagement. Stressing the importance of human contact a pat on the back, a smile, looking into another’s face, perhaps a hug when distressed. In her death Ket has once again made a contribution, as Shakespeare said, “He that dies pays all debts”. May Ket rest in peace. Sending virtual hugs to Sal and her family.