Over the past three days, I had several contacts with death: a high school friend, a colleague’s wife, a client’s mother and a Facebook friend’s dad. That is a lot of sadness in only three days. Two died before they reached 50 – way, way too early. Right now, it is hard to focus on anything else beyond these deaths.
Today, I will be attending the funeral of Dr. Jacqueline Proner, the wife of Legislator David Gelfarb. She was 49 and they have three kids. What is more tragic and sad than her passing? I cannot even imagine what David is going through. I hate that it happened. Several people have said to me over the past two days: “It reminds you what’s really important in life.” And that is certainly true.
So what does one take from a week like this? Obviously, it reminds us that life is fleeting and can disappear quickly. We have no idea how long we will be on this earth, so we better make the most of it right now. Are we spending enough time with our loved ones? For many, the answer is probably “no.” We have created a society where we are working longer hours in this roller-coaster economy, and in many families both parents must work full time to pay the bills. Are we dedicating enough of our time to our kids?
And if you really want to get depressed, turn on the television. You see so much sex and violence, mean and crude political dialogue and idiotic reality shows – nothing we can be very proud of. It really makes you wonder where we are going as a society. How do we change this?
I don’t dare claim to have the answers. I know I need to spend more time with my family immediately, because I could get hit by a bus next week. Yesterday, I was catching up on my law work and my wife mentioned it was a nice day and I should go have a baseball catch with my son. I said I was too busy – that was the definitely the wrong answer.
As an elected official, I am frankly shocked by the polarization I see every day. We so-called leaders are supposed to be improving our society, and we are all fighting. Many of our constituents are doing the same. Too many people have moved to the extremes and are only speaking to people they agree with – rather than engage the other side in a respectful and productive way to find common ground. I do try to make a difference in my position, but it is a tough climate. So now I have another thing to work on, which is doing a better job of bringing people together in our county government. All 17 county legislators and the county executive must work harder at communicating and compromising.
So, maybe this week can be a wake-up call to some degree – I know I need to do better and so do you. I am sharing this post on my county legislator blog because I feel like I had to say something useful to my friends and constituents about what I am feeling today.
I cannot stop thinking about the passing of 49 year old Dr. Jacqueline Proner. I chatted with her several times over the past year, and she was engaging, thoughtful and friendly. She had a terrific personality and worked so hard to advance David’s career and her own, and she was so proud to watch our legislative swearing-in ceremony in January. Why God took her, we may never know. Her death is so damn sad and impossible to explain.
But we are all still here. We just don’t know when our number will be up. I suggest we take a lesson from all this death and focus harder on the important things – spending more quality time with family and friends, being nicer and more respectful to each another, publicly opposing hate, and contributing more to make this world a better place.
Jacqueline will not have a chance to do this, but the rest of us do.Jim Maisano County Legislator CtyLegJimMaisano@gmail.com 914-636-1621