Saturday, April 04, 2015

Missed Opportunity

Suzanne was a lovely person, a marvelously creative individual, and a friend and associate. Over the past 30 years or so, I had the good fortune to work with her any number of times in a variety of venues. Sometimes I would engage her to help me; other time the roles were reversed, and I helped her on one of her projects. For me, it was always the kind of work experience I hoped to repeat, one characterized by mutual respect, true collaboration and most importantly, laughs.  

Of course, there were many others with whom she worked, including those who spent far more time with her than I, and who developed deeper relationships. When we chatted, she often told me of friends she had both local and distant. And she was fortunate to have a husband she loved and who loved her, and 2 adult girls making their way in the world of whom she was rightfully proud. But all of us share a profound sense of sadness as she lost the battle with the cancers that dogged her over the past 15 years, and passed away this past week.

She and I spent a good deal of time sitting together and chatting over the years, and more recently, when our paths didn't seem to cross as much as they had in the past, connecting via phone every few months or so. Still, it would be arrogant of me to spin it as any more than an intermittent connection. Those many others who knew her better that I are more equipped to paint a complete picture of her as a mother, a friend and a professional. But I can certainly say without reservation that she was the kind of person that you enjoyed spending time with under any circumstance, not a commodity in ample enough supply.

But for me at least, in some ways it was a missed opportunity. For as often as we worked together, we often said that we should try and get together away from the pressures of a project. Perhaps she and her husband would come up our way, or my wife and I would head towards their place. We both agreed it was a good idea, but the rendezvous never took place. There was always something else that seemed to intercede on the calendar; nothing special, just life as we know it.  

And now that opportunity is gone. And that's sad. Certainly not as sad as Suzanne's passing itself, or the pain and loss that her family feels. But sad none the less, because I let the chance slip away. It's something we all do frequently, not by intent. But all too often we make a connection and then let it go, not appreciating how rare such an opportunity is.  

In business, the equation is couched in shear economics: it's cheaper, easier, and more effective to retain current customers than it is to acquire new ones. But friendships are really no different. While you should certainly be open to new ones, it's a mistake not to nurture the ones you have, and help them bloom to their fullest potential. It's a gift there for the taking, but like many things, you have to work to get the most out of it.

The online service Craigslist has a section called "Missed Connections." In it, people who had a fleeting encounter with another person list the circumstance and some pertinent facts to maybe, perhaps, hopefully turn a swing into a hit. My situation with Suzanne was different only in degree. I had the good fortune to make that initial connection, even expand it a bit, but unfortunately never developed it to the fuller potential it might have been. Yes, it's trite to trot out John Donne's famous line that "every man's death diminishes me." But just because it's trite doesn't make it any less true. And that's because in this case it's personal.  

To be sure, I feel most sorry for those closest to Suzanne who will feel her absence most acutely. But for those of us who knew her, yet who could have known her even better, it is a loss as well. It's only potential, it's only possibility, but you just don't get that many chances in this world.  And so I am sad not just for what was lost, but for what was never had.


Marc Wollin lives in Bedford. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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