Lead by example

From the editor - March 2006


Susy Schultz

My dear friend’s world collapsed recently when her mother died. Roberta Richards was a loving and caring mother.

That was not all, but even if "mother’ were the only summation of her years, that would be enough. She gave the world Cindy, our senior editor and travel editor, and in my mind and that of so many others, that would be enough of an accomplishment.

Cindy makes the world better by being in it. (This is not to slight Bobbi’s son, David. I just don’t know him as well as I know her daughter.)

Over the years, Cindy has been my colleague, my friend and my shoulder through the good stuff and the bad. We’ve been through newspapers, magazines and professional groups together. She even forgave me for almost killing her on a maniac deadline ride to the airport one dark and rainy night.

And there are times when I think we know all there is to know about one another. But that is never true, is it? Still, I was struck by the lessons I learned from Cindy in this past month as Bobbi’s health failed.

Bobbi’s family was overwhelmed by her unexpected brain surgery following a fall. And they watched and cared for the woman who had done the same for all of them.

I’m sure my dear friend was overwhelmed. How can you watch the mother you adore slip away without your heart breaking? Yet, as I watched, Cindy remained everything she had been taught well to be—a sweet and caring mother herself.

Parenting through adversity is an art. Yet, for some such as Cindy, it comes as naturally as breathing.

She won’t say it. She probably didn’t even notice it. But that is what makes a great parent—you are doing it all the time and you don’t even realize it.

It was amazing. Both Cindy and her husband, Scott, as well as their extended families, have fed these marvelous children huge amounts of love and respect. And when you do that, children grow strong, no matter what they are facing.

Both their handsome son, Evan, 12, and their beautiful daughter, Tess, 9, on the day of the funeral, greeted and talked to friends and family with grace and composure. It was difficult, no doubt, they both loved their Grandma Bobbi. Yet, their actions were a tribute in themselves.

Both had been parented well through a rough time.

Cindy and Scott protected them. The kids did not see Grandma Bobbi during her hospitalization. It would have been too jarring to see her swollen from medication and with no hair. Nor would Bobbi have wanted to upset her grandchildren.

Yet, they were brought into the process through ways they could understand. Both kids went to the florist to consult and pick out the flowers for the funeral.

It was Evan who decided that two white roses, representing him and his sister, should be in the middle of the heart arrangement.

It was Tess, working with her mom, who put together the picture board for Grandma Bobbi’s service, showing her as a mother, an aunt, a grandmother and a loving wife. It was a tribute with color, life and love.

And both children watched as their father stepped in to help when no one else could.

Cindy’s mother didn’t really have hair after her surgery and her family was not sure what to do for the funeral. A wig? A scarf?

During the discussion at the funderal home, Scott reached behind him and grabbed his long ponytail.

"Wasn’t her hair about this color?" he said. "Will this do?"

We always lead our children by example. Even when we think they are not watching, they are.

And when they see something such as this, what a lifetime lesson they get.

As much as we want to, we can’t shield our children from the rough stuff of life. Yet, we can teach them how to work through it and we can stand strong next to them—even when standing strong means sobbing a bit.

Grieving for the people we love means they loved us well.

And no matter what we believe about what happens after death, the loss of someone we love, is filled with sadness.

Cindy’s example is shining. Her resumé is impressive. Her professional accomplishments put her in an elite class of journalists. She could rest on those laurels alone.

Yet, she is so much more. She is a wonderful parent and her mother’s daughter.

Kids Eat Chicago

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