Many thanks for the good wishes. My situation has deteriorated dramatically, and I’m currently in home hospice. For now all is stable. But the long-term prospects are clear and not good. And long-term for me is actually very short-term.
The message was from Simon Benninga, the Jerusalem International YMCA’s Board Chair, who had been battling cancer for two years. Simon was everything an executive director could hope for in a board chair: a fabulous leader, a generous donor, a wise counselor and a wonderful friend.
I was looking forward to seeing him again in November, but his message made it clear that wasn’t going to happen. I thought about expressing my concern and support with a phone call, but that seemed inadequate.
Feeling the need to say thank you and, sadly, good-bye to a dear friend, I traveled to Jerusalem to be with him one last time. A product of his conservative Dutch heritage, Simon advised against it, not wanting me to spend the money. However, I was determined to make the journey, and our time together was, as they say, “priceless.”
We spent four days together talking and laughing about what he wanted to talk about most: family, friends and the Jerusalem International YMCA. I was humbled by the fact that, literally, in his last days, the YMCA was of great importance to him. He exhorted me to do everything possible to assure its long-term financial security and mission viability.
Having recently returned from that journey, it was clear to me that traveling a great distance to say thank you and good-bye to a dear friend and a terrific leader was the right thing to do.
It also occurred to me that I have other friends and colleagues, some of them in challenging stages of life, most all of them much closer to home, who would be greatly encouraged by a personal visit and a word of thanks.
I’ve started a list and have scheduled my first visits, and would invite you to consider starting your own list. Who are those near and dear to your organization that would cherish a personal visit and heartfelt thanks from you?
Simon Benninga passed away on Saturday, August 29, 2015. May his passion for life and for the Jerusalem International YMCA be carried forward by his family and friends, and may his soul rest in peace.