April 05, 2019

FROM THE EDITOR: Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Jennifer J. Ator


Saying goodbye is not easy. After serving as special issue editor of Best of ABA Sections (BOS) for five years, I can tell you, saying goodbye is just plain hard. In some ways, Best of ABA Sections is not going anywhere—in fact the Division is going to improve BOS and the tech issues of GPSolo by incorporating them into the regular issues. Admittedly, not a bad idea, but the result is the lack of the need for a BOS or tech edition editor—now everything will just be GPSolo. I have been RIFed.

Not unlike a RIF (“reduction in force”) in the workplace, these changes may be seen as “smartsizing.” It might save the Division money, and it will provide our members BOS and tech content every issue.

But being RIFed has raised feelings of loss. It is not unlike when someone dies. I know this because I have been to two funerals in the last month. Neither was completely unexpected as both were for friends who were elderly, who were well into their 80s, and who had lived long, productive lives. Nevertheless, the loss and grief are still there.

The first funeral was for Bill Wolar, the parent of a close friend. He served as a local city official more than 20 years ago. I had been told that he did not support women in public office, but it certainly was not true with respect to me. He encouraged me throughout my campaigns, was engaged enough in city issues that he was happy to give me his two cents, and even though he was already very ill and in a lot of pain, he went to vote on April 5, 2011, specifically to vote for me in a very contentious race. I did not see him at the end, but I was told in the last weeks of his life he was discussing city business with his daughter-in-law and told her that he was really proud of me for the work I was doing for the city.

The second funeral was for Dot Miller, a lovely former neighbor. She and her husband had recently moved to a local retirement home. She was a member of my Daughters of the American Revolution chapter, a talented artist and poet, a loving wife, mother, and grandmother, and a smart, well-reasoned, opinionated lady. She had the unique ability to understand that change is not bad or scary. She believed change done right should be embraced. She moved to town in 1946. In Florida that is a long time ago—almost akin to the Garden of Eden. She would tell people that if residents in the 1940s had objected to change, 70 percent of our city would never have been built. She was a very smart lady with a knack for swaying people with her unique outlook. Her husband of 68 years will miss her, but we will miss her, too. Although I knew that she had been slowing down in the past couple of years, I learned she was seriously ill only a few days before she died. Very sad indeed.

The grieving process is well documented. It is not just being sad—grief involves a series of stages that people move through at their own pace. These stages include initial shock and possibly denial, then anger and/or sadness, and finally acceptance and/or resolution.

Even though I knew my friends were sick, I was shocked and stunned to learn they had died. I was immediately concerned for their loved ones—after all, the funeral is not for the person who has passed away, but for the family and friends to have some initial closure.

Following my initial shock, I became sad. Sad for those who were no longer with us; sad for those in their family who were in so much pain; and sad for my own loss of counsel and comfort when the going gets tough. As selfish as it sounds, I lost a couple of members of my fan club.

I am certainly not to acceptance quite yet. I still think of the families often and wonder how they are coping with the loss.

At the same time I am grieving my layoff from GPSolo magazine. The beauty of the editor’s column of BOS is that I have been free to write whatever I want to write—not tied to writing a story for a slot in the magazine with a specific theme. Sure, the Division still wants me to write. But it is an invitation to write what they want, not what I want to write.

Admittedly, this is not the first time the Division has contemplated cutting BOS during my tenure, and I should have seen this coming. A couple of years ago, in an effort to balance the budget, cutting BOS was proposed. The idea was scrapped after the Division realized the positive feedback that was received from members about BOS and as a result of some lobbying from Division leaders. Then, last year, I was told of a proposed new organizational plan for the magazine, and the potential incorporation of the BOS content into the regular issues of GPSolo starting in 2013.

Turns out, this timeline was accelerated. (For more details, see “Division News” on page 10.) This is when the initial shock hit—disbelief, denial, blame, confusion. I had it all. However, it was not like anyone actually died, and it was not as if I had not heard all this before. As a result, my denial quickly turned to a bit of anger with a sense of betrayal tossed in for good measure. I might even describe my feelings as resentful and helpless. After all, I had done this job for five years. I still had something to say; this column was my forum. I know it is silly to feel that way, but there is no “right way” for grief to express itself, and my grief was real.

Fortunately, I am at the ending point of the grief cycle with respect to BOS. I understand and appreciate the change in direction for the magazine. I will find a new home within the ABA—one that feeds a passion and doing something different from writing a column twice a year.

After my last election for public office, for a variety of reasons, I felt like I lost the ability to express myself as a public official as well. Facebook seemed too interactive and too “bubble gum” and “teenage dream.” I needed a forum where most were not expressing how “happy” they were for each other and how “exciting” every episode of American Idol was. I did not need people to “like” what I had to say. I still post on Facebook, but I thought about my loss of a substantive communication tool and created a new forum for myself. I morphed my campaign website into a blog for Miami Springs city issues and other personal happenings. You can find me at www.jenniferator.com.

I promise (nearly) no legal issues will be covered. Only messages reminding us that all we need to know we learned in kindergarten; saying “thank you” is a lost art; finding your passion comes from within; lawyers should have exceptional courage and fortitude; in communicating, your message should be tailored to your audience; Facebook can be your “friend,” even in this business where reputation and image are of utmost importance; we have not quite achieved diversity, yet; and change is really, really good!

Good-bye, Best of ABA Sections, it has been a fantastic journey, and I will miss you terribly. But you will continue lurking in the pages of GPSolo, and I am proud of how far I have brought you in the last five years.

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