Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How I'd Like To Be Remembered

I'm not sure who invented crying, but as far as I can tell, it's a terrible way to respond to intense emotional input. I mean, your eyes get all blurry, your voice ragged, and your nose filled with snot. Hardly the best way to deal with whatever's troubling you. And I don't know about you, but I tend to get a nasty headache along with it. Perhaps that's why I do it so rarely, or maybe it's because I'm a cold-hearted bastard. Whatever the reason, I almost never tear up over anything, but I did yesterday, quite a lot.

I guess I have a legitimate reason: that's when I found out about the death of my friend and colleague Diane Gershuny, and it affected me like the proverbial punch to the gut. I did not know that this tragic event was imminent; as far I was aware, her cancer had been in remission for a long time. The moment my Facebook feed showed a string of RIP notices as I scrolled down, I really felt like someone had hit me in the stomach, hard. However, it wasn't until later in the day when I looked at her Facebook timeline and saw her final profile picture -- a little girl being carefree on a swing in a playground -- that my tears began to flow. Dammit, there they are again. And soon comes the headache.

Anyway, I'm not here to eulogize Diane. Someone else will do a great job of that, especially since almost all of her good professional pals were her fellow writers and editors, among the best in the music and audio industries. But the universal outpouring of genuine grief resulting from her passing did tell me something: Diane did something right in life. No one who was so loved (and perhaps as importantly respected) could have become that way without being a little special.

Remembering and Being Remembered
When you think of a person, chances are there are a few immediate bullet-point items that pop into your mind. "Oh Ken? He teaches at a high school and is terrific a photographer and loves to travel." "Chris? Works for CNN, loves his family, really good lead guitarist," and so on. Obviously, like the proverbial onion, people have layers under layers, and it's rare that we see very far down below the surface. That's when the person's actions and their passions help define them. Diane was one of those people whose "lower layers" were more apparent than in others.

As a result, when I think about Diane, many more things come to mind than simply "public/media relations expert and journalist". Perhaps there are specific reasons for this. Diane's genuine passion for things (including those beyond what she was hired to promote) was so apparent to all who knew her. Example: while many of us in our little industry do love music, Diane's love eclipsed just about everyone else's. She constantly attended shows of the bands she enjoyed (which generally seemed to gravitate around indie music, alt-country, cowpunk, Americana, New Orleans funk, and rockabilly). She would jump in and help promote bands/artists that she found worthy.

Diane also took a big interest in local affairs. She helped organize all manner of cool events in and around her Long Beach, CA home. She worked with non-profits. She jumped in and volunteered with causes that were important to her. And she also helped nurture people who were coming into our industry with valuable advice, though never unsolicited. But she was always there when people had questions, and she always had the right answers.

Back to the Question
So, how will you be remembered when you're gone? I can't tell you how I will; I honestly don't know. I do know how I'd like people to think of me, but what I think I am versus how others perceive me are two entirely different things. I guess what it boils down to is that I hope that my outlook of wanting to help others, of enjoying creativity in all forms, and being pretty damn good at the things I do will be recalled by people. In other words, I can only hope to be remembered like Diane Gershuny is being remembered today. It's a high bar to try and reach, but it helps to have inspiration, and Diane was nothing if not inspirational in life, and now even in death.

After reading all this, you might be interested to note that she and I weren't best friends. Not even close to it. We didn't hang out. Instead, we spoke every couple of months, usually about business-oriented topics, and saw each other a couple times a year at various industry events. But that, somehow, was plenty. Every interaction with Diane was fulfilling, and I ended each conversation with a smile on my face. I'm grateful for having known her, and it's still hard for me to write about her in the past tense. But perhaps, if her passing means that I focus a little more on the things that are truly important in life, there's some good that's come out of it. Just by having known her, I become a better person by proxy. I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking similar thoughts today.

Rest in peace, Diane.

No comments: