Tomorrow marks 90 days since Terry left us. I am as shocked today as I was then. Not the invincible one who charged through every day with command and purpose. Not the one who, for so many of us, was an unbiased sounding board and giver of the best hugs. Not the one who struggled with her own demons while rescuing others from theirs. Not the one that loved so freely, so devoid of complication. Yes. That one.
I've wanted to write this for weeks but the time didn't seem right, the words didn't come as freely as I wanted them to. I realized that was the case because my heart was tied in knots. I couldn't bring myself to commit to paper the truth that she was gone. But I woke today knowing it was time. Maybe past time, I don't know.
I met Terry many years ago when I applied for a job with APUS. She was, at that time, head of Admissions and responsible for creating a new division within the school. I'm not entirely certain what she saw in me, I'm just grateful that she did. In our interview, I was inspired by her confidence and her enthusiasm for the job at hand. Even in her darkest hours over the seven years that followed, she never lost the drive to create an environment that allowed each to thrive and grow. I watched as she nurtured so many young people, pushing them to be better and move forward. She was tough, and sometimes it felt that she was uneven, but none of us ever regretted knowing that, ultimately, she cared.
Caring was Terry's hallmark. Admissions were her little chicks: each of us birthed to bring out the best in us and to create a cohesive unit that not only thrived, but excelled. And we did. And no one was prouder than she. We had a love/hate relationship with her at times, probably because no one had ever called us on our bullshit before. Looking back now, I see how so many young lives were enriched even if they didn't realize it at the time. Terry was tough love. Both at work and in personal relationships. Not because she wanted to hurt, but because she wanted growth. And she succeeded ... not for herself personally, but in the places we went after we left her nest. Jason to Harvard. Yoci, Greg, and JB to promotions. Some of us to positions elsewhere. Yes, the impetus came from within us, but the confidence came from her encouragement. And each time one of her chicks left the nest, she grieved. I often wished that she'd have told others of her pride and love in them, but that wasn't Terry. At least, not in an overt way. But make no mistake: there was not a one person who worked with her in Admissions that she didn't love with all her heart, and wasn't grateful to for helping her to make a stand out department.
She wasn't always easy. There were knee jerk reactions in spots that she was disappointed in herself for. But almost without fail, those events were rare. And it was those events that she held herself at task for more than any of us could have.
There are few people in one's life that can be said to have saved it. In my case, Terry did just that. I needed help badly, and she made sure that I got it. It changed the dynamic of our relationship certainly. I no longer worked with her, but instead, she was just my friend. A friend that I argued with. A friend that I admired and respected, and a friend on whom I relied to find my moral compass when the road was way too bumpy. I can never repay that kindness and compassion. There aren't words.
When Sara alerted me on February 3 to Terry's dire situation, I was speechless. I had no idea. Within hours, she was gone. There was no opportunity to say good bye, or to thank her. Or to let her know just how wonderfully she had met the challenges and overcome them. Or how proud I was to be her friend. But in retrospect, I understand where she was coming from. Terry never wanted to be a burden to anyone. Clearly she had been ill for some time, but only a very few were aware of it. I think she did things the way she wanted. I think she felt that she was ready for the greatest challenge of them all. And I think she met that challenge with courage and integrity.
All of this is well and good, but what about the day to day of those of us left behind? Her Mom, Carol. Her children, Sara, Emily, and Kevin. Her friends and co-workers. What the hell are we going to do now? Perhaps the better question is what would Terry do now? I know what she would do. She would move forward. She would cherish the love and respect the decisions. She would grieve in her own quiet way, and hold us close in her heart. She would thank us for being us.
So Turry, I love you. I miss you. I will always keep you in my heart. I will always remember the lessons you taught me (even those I didn't want to learn). I will cherish your memory and I will still cry when it is all too much. You changed my life for the better, as I know you did others. I cannot thank you enough.
I miss you.