To back up: I met Erin Kelly in 2003 while healing from my first round of treatment for leukemia. I attended a class at her Ahimsa Yoga Center here in South Hadley, and found it calming and rejuvenating. I've continued going to class (except for now when I'm not allowed in an inside group), and we've become good friends.
Months ago, she sat at my kitchen table and asked, "How would you feel if we put on a benefit for you?" My answer: "Embarrassed."
Over tea one day, I had told her this saga: I had recently been terminated by The Republican newspaper and had begun paying the high premium for my insurance through COBRA. The newspaper "terminated" me at the end of June at the same time as they laid off about a dozen employees. All of them got severance packages, but I got nothing because they said that technically, they only needed to hold my job for 12 weeks. I gave 25 years of good service, but because I got sick, I walked away with nothing. I was devastated. I don't know when I can begin looking for a job, and I can't collect unemployment until I can look for work. I do get Social Security. I didn't mean to go into this, but it provides background on the fund-raiser. Also, seeing the work people, both employed and unemployed, brings it back.
I had told Erin about my worries, and she and her neighbor, Pat, started talking about the idea of a fund-raiser. I told her that I didn't want it to seem like I was asking for money. She said that people like to do this kind of thing, that it brings the community together. "Just think of it as a big hug," she said.
Because of the embarrassment factor, originally I had hoped I wouldn't be allowed to go. But Dr. Alyea gave the green light, and the more I thought about, the more I liked the idea of seeing many of my friends.
Margaret came that afternoon to go with me and hold my hand. As she drove me to the Holyoke Country Club in the pouring rain, I began to whine. "Nobody's going to come," I said. "It will be so pathetic." (Thanks Margaret for keeping me from going over the edge.)
We drove down a dark, winding road and suddenly saw twinkling lights up ahead. As we drove up, we saw lots and lots of cars. The lights were decorating the entrance to the function room. The sound of music, laughter and talking came through the windows. There were lots of people inside.
Erin greeted me at the door with a corsage. I looked around and was astonished to see so many friends from the community along with friends from work, tennis and baseball (from Joe and Ben). Diane and David came, and it was good to see them too.
Everything went off without a hitch. In addition to being a warm, generous soul, Erin is a good organizer. She told me today that 167 people attended.
I'm not sure what I'll do with the money, but I have so many bills to pay, I'm sure it will go to good use. Plus I might buy myself one tiny little treat. (You know, good for the healing process also.)
I was pretty tired by the end of the night, but it did feel good, like a big hug.