This Post by Justin Dixon Photo Courtesy of Adrienne WrightLast night I received an email telling me that one of my favorite people in the world had passed on that morning. Now this isn’t my first time dealing with death. I’ve lost a friend in high school, my grandpa Larry, my uncle Ben, and now Jean Airoldi. The best way I know how to handle death is to take your favorite parts of someone and add them to yourself, that way you make sure that the best parts of someone will always live on. Jean had no shortage of life lessons to choose from. She had lived intelligently, successfully and dynamically. There is not a person I can think of that did not love being around Jean. So how did she become dear to so many people, and what lessons can we all learn from her?
1. Always Look for a Way to Give Joy. At the retirement community I worked at and where I met this wonderful woman every employee knew where Ms. Jean’s door was. She always had something on her landing to give away. Often she would have a bowl full of candy, and when she didn’t have that she at least would have something there to make you smile. This went beyond her door though. No matter where you saw Jean you could be sure she would be finding a way to make you smile.
2. Age is Just a Number. The most lovable people at this retirement community who had lived the most dynamic lives all had this attitude of “I’m young and dumb till the day I die and if I ever forget it I’m asking for trouble.” Jean was no exception. She never let her age be a barrier. She neither looked down on the young or the old. She treated everyone no matter there age with the same respect.
3. Genuinely Listen to People. If anyone ever had something to say Jean always listened to the fullest. If you said something that she liked she would affirm it. If you said something she didn’t like she would let you finish, and then let you know with her reasons. No matter what you had to say though she really listened, and it made a huge difference.
4. Think For Yourself. Jean always looked for independent ideas. Not just because these ideas were different, but because she wanted to hear as many perspectives as she could, and she never took any persons word for what she should believe over her own mind. Because of this her apartment was full of books, and her mind was constantly active.
5. A Sense of Humor Can Go A Long Way Jean had these signs on her door that she would change every once in a while. One read “Money isn’t everything but it sure keeps the kids in touch.” One would read “I’m smiling because I can’t hear you.” She had a whole series of these comments about aging, and everyone who saw them enjoyed them. No matter where she went she kept a way to make someone smile or laugh.
6. Believe in Others. Jean believed in me more than I believed in myself some days, and she let me know it every time she saw me. It is far too easy to doubt what we can do, because we so personally know our own limits (or are illusion of limits). Jean was one of the main voices that made me feel like something I had to say could mean enough to people for them to want to hear it. She reminded me that I don’t know my own limits as these limits constantly change. The fact is that when you believe in someone you don’t just call out greatness from them, you make them greater. You give them courage, inspiration, and hope. Through little conversations in between walking her dog, and helping her at the cafe Jean made me better a little bit at a time. This was made all the more powerful by how much she chose to believe in me.
I can only hope that these lessons will spread because these are the best things I remember about Ms. Jean, and I want to make sure those live on.
Ms. Jean thank you. Thank you for all the reasons you gave me to smile. Thank you for all the salt water taffy. Thank you for believing in me and calling out my best. Thank you for being such a great person to be around.
I can only hope that as many people as possible can take on these lessons, and that I can demonstrate these things as often as possible. This world needs more Jean Airoldis.