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It’s not as if a departure ever comes at a good time. And if we don’t see it coming, the pain and anguish that it brings can lay us lower and render it harder to move on with the daily grind of life than if we prepared for it.
We can act as stoic as we think people will expect or believe, but in the midnight hour, or during the most inopportune time, reality will come crashing down upon us and force us to deal with the harsh and cruel reality of a disconnection from a portion of humanity.
I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing to say, but over time, I have learned to deal with departures like a pro. I know that I have to let go emotionally and process the end, taking whatever bits and pieces of the person I need with me as I continue life’s journey.
And still, there is something about severing a connection that is difficult to do.
In many ways, letting go of someone you love and may no longer see can be the same as dealing with death.
Death is a disconnection and so is the end of love.
Death is difficult to process, even if you were only attached to the deceased emotionally.
Last week, many of us had to process the loss of two media professionals-one a giant in Black entertainment and corporate public relations and the other a giant in mainstream media.
If you worked in the entertainment industry for one moment, you knew of Patricia L. Tobin, founder of Tobin & Associates.
If you were a Black media professional over the past twenty-five years, you knew of Pat Tobin.
Pat was a warm hearted soul who would remember your name and flash that famous smile from “home” (wherever your home was, you saw it in her smile) no matter how long it had been since you last saw her.
She was already building her reputation as a builder of relationships when she built a relationship with Toyota, USA in 1998, when the automotive giant was seeking to repair its relationship with African American consumers. Toyota gave her the profile to attract relationships with the likes of Spike Lee and Johnnie Cochran.
As a young bourgeoning writer and public relations professional, Pat gave me an internship in my last year of college that created relationships for me that I have maintained today. Because of her, a young college senior has his picture in People Magazine with Spike Lee and Jasmine Guy and went on to help create and define hip hop journalism.
When I saw her a few months ago, neither my name nor face were forgotten.
And neither will hers.
Pat Tobin lost her long and strongly fought battle with cancer on June 10.
Last week also saw the end of the road for one Tim Russert, the managing editor and moderator of NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
Russert collapsed and died of a heart attack on June 13, 2008.
“Our issues this Sunday,” began the media giant when the television news magazine opened each week.
He took the helm of the sixty-year-old show in 1991 and since then, it has been the most watched Sunday morning interview program in America and the most quoted news program in the world. It is also the longest-running program in the history of television.
And while friends, family and colleagues will mourn his loss and surely celebrate his life, many detractors are already dancing on his grave.
In fact, many African Americans are dancing right now, asserting that Russert was racist and a key part of a racist organization (NBC).
As evidence, some point to the Farrakhan moment, when Russert persisted in asking Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama about Minister Louis Farrakhan, even though Obama made it clear that he denounced the Minister’s comments as “unacceptable and reprehensible.”
As a larger-than-life media icon, Russert connected with fans and foes.
You see, part of the beauty of the human experience is that we can be connected to other humans in a variety of ways—physically, emotionally or mentally.
Those connections can be negative or positive, but they are part of what makes life worth living.
The thing is that the act of living can be a voluntary experience to be cherished as it is experienced, as well as in retrospect. But when life is filled with trauma and madness and mayhem, it can become an involuntary act, filled with numbness and darkness, and only the faint hope of reaching a piece of light at some corner of the darkness.
For many of us, our lives are so filled with traumatic experiences—poverty, relationship turmoil and disconnection from the milk of human kindness—that we sometimes find that life isn’t really worth living at all.
But at the end of the darkness, if we find that we are connected to some or many, whether physically, mentally or emotionally, we find that it is hard to say goodbye-to leave or to let go. And we find that the difficulty in saying goodbye can keep us grounded, whether we are leaving or being left.
My childhood had been filled with the traumatic experiences of poverty. To add to that trauma, I lost several loved ones within a small span of time.
In the seventh grade, my best friend was taken by Leukemia.
Within a one-year time period, lasting from the end of ninth grade to the end of tenth grade, I lost my oldest brother, my grandmother and my stepfather, who had raised me as his son.
Darkness began to surround me and threatened to engulf me several times over the next two years. By the time I graduated from high school and had to face more loss, I was prepared to face it with the only coping mechanism I had—disconnection.
And for a while, I was disconnected from everything.
But, eventually, I began to climb out of my darkness and make connections to warm, living human beings who would help me to shape and develop an understanding of life.
My understanding is that nothing is forever. We can keep alive those with whom we are connected, if we keep them in our hearts and minds. Even if those places are the only places where the connection thrived in the first place.
We hold on to memories, to photos and to other mementos which trigger memories of the connections we made. And in doing so, bits and pieces of those people live on us.
Many of us are still maintaining the connection to loved ones long gone, but still alive in our hearts and minds. Some of us are still holding on to friends, spouses and lovers long gone from our lives but not this world.
At some point in life, you will find yourself saying goodbye. You will have to say goodbye to lovers, to friends and to family, as they leave you alone in this world with disconnection or when they move into death.
It’s difficult to say goodbye, but the end of each relationship is a natural part of life.
We all have to say goodbye.
Darryl James n is an award-winning author of the forthcoming powerful anthology “Notes From The Edge.” Discounted Autographed and Numbered Pre-Release copies can be ordered at www.darryljames.com. He released his first mini-movie, “Crack,” and this year, will release his first full-length documentary. View previous installments of this column at www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at