My friend Gina Grandolfo died, a year ago today, of complications from breast cancer surgery. No one expected her to die from having had breast cancer or the surgery. She was 48. She left behind a 5-year-old son and a husband. And parents and a sister with nieces and nephews, and too many friends to count. It was horrifying to lose one of my best friends, from law school, and life, with no warning.
Last year, after Gina’s death, I went to Southern California for the memorial and was not surprised to see the shock and the outpouring of love, and hear the similar stories being shared from person to person at the gathering of her mourners. The central theme of all the shared stories was that “Gina was who she was” and she didn’t let you think or wonder for a minute how she felt about you. She let you know, good or bad (kindly and politely of course) what she felt about you and for you. She did not leave anything unsaid. We did not leave anything unsaid, thankfully.
The difference is important – she did not, and we did not, leave anything unsaid.
I tried to write a memorial tribute to her a year ago while I was in Southern California for her memorial but when I let a friend read it before hitting the publish button – he said, “You are too close to it. Don’t publish this.”
Ugh! I hate it when that happens — I had poured my heart and soul into that tribute.
So, I waited a week, then reread it. Yep, my friend was right. I was too close to it. I couldn’t publish what I wrote.
Recently, I have had a spate of deaths in my life and something more important came out of reflecting on these situations. I felt that it was important to not leave anything unsaid so that if someone did die suddenly and unexpectedly as these friends and their family members have experienced that I would not leave anything unsaid.
My grandmother, Edith Krog Marck Rector, died recently after being on hospice for several weeks. We had warning and plenty of time with her. We knew the end was coming, so it wasn’t sudden or unexpected and we took the opportunity to say what we wanted to each other. She was 93. She had lived a full and wonderful life. We left nothing unsaid. There may have been untold stories, or forgotten memories, but we left nothing unsaid.
Another friend’s father, Lowell, dropped dead un-expectantly while Lee was out of state with a scout troop on a trip he couldn’t return from easily. My friend made the incredibly difficult decision to remain on his trip and to honor his dad and support his mother when he returned from the trip (with their blessing). I can’t imagine how he felt or how his mother felt losing the love of her life of 52 years, suddenly and without warning.
Tragically and unexpectedly, friends from college who now live in Texas lost their 25-year old son, Andrew, who was riding his bike to the grocery store, merely running an errand for his father, when he was hit in a head on-collision with a car. This sudden, early loss of a child is my worst nightmare as a parent of three boys. I have panicky moments about my kids going out to run an errand and never coming back; I can’t imagine how my friends are picking up and moving on, each day after Andrew’s accident.
My tribute for Gina, my Grandmother Edith, Lowell, and Andrew, is this – leave nothing unsaid.
Really – live your life so that you leave nothing unsaid. Not for a minute, because in the blink of an eye, you can lose your best friend, your son, your father, your grandmother. Anyone. You can lose anyone in the blink of an eye.
So yes, my public tribute for Gina Marie Grandolfo Buckalew is to leave nothing unsaid. Please.
(Pictures courtesy of Carol Torno, Mike Buckalew)