Light, and Connection: Remembering Our Dana Gordon (1961-2012)

Every now and then, we meet people in our lives who seem to have an effortless way of being sensitive, of understanding what’s really important, and really enjoying the good things in their lives. And they often have this approach to life that comes off as elegant, simple, natural, and beautiful. I had a friend in college who was like that, who was the “Grace Kelly” of our group.

danaMany years later, after working in publishing for 25 years and after getting my Masters of Library Science, I met another “Grace Kelly,” and that Dana Gordon.

I had known Dana for years as a Newsweek co-worker of a friend, but the Great Recession put me into a special orbit with her. She helped create the Employment Task Force of the Special Libraries Association New York Chapter in 2009. Dana preferred action to being a bystander when our profession suffered endless layoffs. She put together a list of online job resources, and of course, being a New Yorker, included links for free or inexpensive activities in the city.

In Judaism, we talk about tikkun olam–fixing the world. I think Dana did this in many different ways. If she could help you get hired, by giving you a job or being a reference, or reading over your resume and cover letters, she did it. Dana mentored interns at Newsweek and Crain’s. She taught students Simmons, Rutgers, and TCNJ. She was an active participant in our professional organization. It’s no surprise she was honored by our program at Queens College as an “Alum of the Year.” [Something I only found out via online eulogies.]

Another thing I learned in the week since Dana’s death: She was admired by dozens, maybe hundreds, of people. Her joie de vivre affected us all positively—she enlisted in an exploration of happiness, and sharing it. That is part of tikkun olam. Helping others, making a personal connection, sharing a meal–all endeavors that mend the cracks in our busy, 21st Century lives, where we are often “connected,” but often not in real ways. You always parted after an outing with Dana, and her husband Steve, thinking you were very lucky to know them and be their friends. There was light–and connection.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “A person will be just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Happiness can be a choice, and I think Dana made that choice every day. That choice did not mean being oblivious to her compromised health, even when it took a horrible, irrevocable turn.

I cannot fully comprehend what Dana went through since her diagnosis last fall, but she had only one request: “Just don’t cry in front of me.” She did not shy away from telling me when things were bad, or getting worse. She told me, before the very bad downturn last month, that she would probably still be alive a year or two from now, but she couldn’t be sure about ten years from now, or five. I cannot even the mechanics of having to say any of that aloud. I promised her I wouldn’t cry, and I didn’t. But she is gone now, just four months after that conversation.

I have been crying all week.

I feel very blessed to have known someone, even just for a few years, who embraced life with such seemingly effortless grace, with admirable and genuine vigor. I will miss so many things about her: Always eager to see people no matter how busy she was, being so informed on so many different topics, and always enjoying a good meal out with friends. When I wanted to surprise Eric on his 40th birthday, Dana delighted in being part of a day of surprises. That wonderful laugh and smile of hers remains with me. And, the time she came to my town pool and still had on her favorite gold necklace.

It wasn’t all cakes and hors d’oeuvres. She read over my resume at least a dozen times. She was on hand to commiserate about bad interviews and exult when I landed a news library job. She was there when I lost my cat. She was there when a tree fell on my house. She and Steve were there when my mother died.

Over and over again, she was there.

No one person can fix the world. It’s a group effort. Tikkun olam begins at home. It starts with you, and if you can do that, it’s a glow that helps others. If everyone who knew Dana can understand this, and learn from her happiness, it can be something akin to Liberty Enlightening the World, for us and everyone in our lives.

Thank you, Dana.

5 comments.

  1. Seth, what a beautiful memorial to Dana. She was indeed one of the loveliest people I have ever met. Dana was loved, and ewspected by all who knew her. May she rest in peace.

  2. No, I didn’t know Dana that well.

    But from what everyone has said, everything I’ve read, Dana more than touched people’s lives. She helped shape their lives, and for the better.

    God Bless you Dana. And God Bless everyone who knew and mourns her.

  3. What a beautiful tribute to Dana, thank you so much for sharing it.

  4. This is lovely, Seth, thanks for sharing with us.

  5. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul! Dana will live forever in our hearts!

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