Lessons Left By Ira

Most people who know me know that I lost my father in 2011 and some know about the passing of my great-grandma in 2007. But very few people, outside of my friends from Chapel Hill, know the other people I’ve lost. Today, I’ll touch on a pretty special young lady who I have nothing but fond memories of.

I remember in third grade or so, a young girl from Ukraine joined my class. Her name was Irina Yarmolenko but she went by Ira. She was pretty, sweet, and smart. An all-around genuine human being. Until recently, I didn’t know that her family had immigrated here as refugees but I probably didn’t completely understand what was going on in that part of the world at that time. To me, she was just a new student.

Over the next decade, Ira and I went to school together until we graduated from Chapel Hill High. We took everything from college prep to Advanced Placement courses together. At some point (probably during my girl-crazy middle school years), I recall having a crush on her but, when all was said and done, we just became really good friends. She was an amazing young lady.

I almost teared up when I came across her Facebook page today and decided to look through our friendship (or as much of it as Facebook could report, which unfortunately leaves out a large chunk). Ira and I had gotten into the same college, UNCC. I had also been accepted to NC State and UNCG. All three had great business programs but I went with UNCG because the female to male ratio was almost 3:1 at the time. Ira, who chose to go to UNCC, picked on me about that in some of her posts to my Facebook wall. Her teasing still makes me laugh.Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 4.20.00 PM

In mid-2008, as her second year at UNCC came to a close, Ira passed away. NBC’s show “Dateline” did a segment on the mystery behind her death and I recall watching it, hoping an answer would surface. One never did. How it happened isn’t a concern of mine now. If there is justice to be served, it seems like it would be fair, conceptually. I just know that I’ll never run into my friend on Franklin Street again. She passed at 20 years old. I’m 30 as of this past December 3 and, while I cannot say we would’ve definitely still been close, sometimes it’s nice just to see what’s going on in an old friend’s life or grab a drink (now that we can legally). I would’ve loved to hear her verbose opposition to the current state of sociopolitical affairs in the state and nation that she came to call home. Thinking about it, she didn’t even get to see President Obama elected, nor will she see our first female president. She was a great artist and a great soul and, remembering her reminds me that I’ve only got one life to live and I have no clue as to when it will end. So I must live it knowing that every memory made isn’t just for me but also for those who will smile about the good times when I’m gone.

Don’t go a day without telling at least one person you love them and don’t let too long go without reaching out to an old friend. Live in love and let old feuds die.

Make living a life you love a priority.


For Anyone Who Will One Day Lose a Loved One

You determine how professional you are at work. You decide how much money you invest and save. You choose your attitude every second of every day. But what you have no control over is death and a death that hits close to home can seep into your professional life and, if not handled properly, can affect you personally, professionally, and financially for years down the road. So how do you handle something that hits hard but that you have no point of reference for? Well I don’t have a cookie cutter answer but I do have some suggestions that will make it easier when that happens.

Our generation has picked up a very interesting trait: we keep working through everything. That doesn’t sound that bad. Usually it isn’t.  But in the context of dealing with the passing of a loved one, if you fail to take time to grieve on the front end, many problems will arise from it on the back. There are situations in which we feel that the death of someone close to us is pending and we can begin to brace ourselves. Then there are times when it happens suddenly and we have to deal with both the emotional and material aftermath unexpectedly. Unfortunately for me, I’ve experienced both since graduating from college in 2011. Fourtunately for those of you going through it right now or bookmarking this article for later reference, I’ve experienced both in the past half-decade and can provide some relevant insight. Though all of these suggestions do not directly affect your level of professionalism, the impact of death can cause every area of your life to deteriorate, which includes your professional life. So a healthy process for dealing with it is necessary for you to continue moving forward.

First of all, even before death is a thought in your mind, make sure you’re working your backside off at work. Give it your all. When companies know you are an asset, they want to do everything they can to keep you around. So when you let them know that your parent has fallen terminally ill and you need to work from home for a few months (or not work at all if that is the case), you’ll have a better chance of them considering that as a viable option than you would if you were doing the bare minimum. No one feels compelled to make exceptions for the person who is pulling up in last place. But that person who is giving their all to help the company succeed is a great person to have around and strengthens the brand.

Have a solid emergency fund of at least 6 months of your living expenses in place that is liquid. I just lost a member of my family this past August. My fiancée and I moved when we knew that the disease was terminal. I had saved up enough to survive for around 4 months but that was better than I had when I experienced previous loss of a loved one, at which time I was living paycheck to paycheck, saving little to nothing. If we had not saved, quitting our jobs and relocating to be with family would not have been an option.  At best, we would have had to part ways for a while and one of us would’ve continued working.  But that sacrifice we made to establish emergency funds put us in a position to be able to have peace of mind when time proved itself to be more important than money.

When death comes, as it will for everyone at one time or another, let it hit you. I was the first child that my parents had and much of the responsibility fell on me to handle the funeral arrangements for my father and calling family/friends and speaking at the funeral service (mind you I was traveling back and forth to Charlotte at the time interviewing for positions). Right before the funeral service, I got a call from a job and would be starting that position within a few weeks of his passing. So I just kept moving. And I didn’t grieve. And, when this new job started, I wasn’t at my best. I went to work and did what I needed to do but I hadn’t dealt with the fact that I just lost someone I had known for 23 years. And not handling that when it happens caused me not to be as focused as I needed to. So I truly recommend that, when death comes, you cry if you feel like crying. If you need to call your best friend and head to a bar and have a beer, do it. And, even if you don’t feel that you need to, figure out a therapy that works for you. Whether it is seeing an actual therapist or writing in a journal or beginning a workout plan, take ownership of your feelings. It will help in the long run like you wouldn’t imagine.

Lastly, get back up. Have you ever heard the saying “One monkey don’t stop the show”? It’s true. When my father passed, my uncle put it a different way: “The world is going to keep moving and if you don’t keep moving too, it’ll drag you along with it.” Yes, you have to grieve. It is healthy and necessary. It will reduce your level of stress and allow you to enjoy a longer life. But all processes have a purpose: either to strengthen or weaken. If your process has no purpose, you are simply wallowing in pity. So set a timeline and benchmarks. Decide that you’re going to take a couple weeks off to reflect and, when you get back, you’re going to ease yourself back to your regular pace. But make sure you get back to your regular pace. I’ve seen the aftermath of death affect some people’s professional lives nearly two years down the road because they did not keep moving with life and that can be a career killer.

I’m no therapist. I’m not anyone’s pastor. But I know that, if you want to succeed professionally, you have to prepare for those things that no one else is willing to prepare for. This is that uncomfortable topic that we tend to ignore, though it makes 100 times more sense to brace ourselves, our bank accounts, and our professional lives for it, because it is pending even when we don’t know it.

When a Relative Dies and You Can’t Afford the Funeral

No matter one’s age, race, background, or economic status, death is an inevitable part of life, right?  So why don’t we plan for it accordingly?  Whether preparing a will, securing a life insurance policy, or communicating your wishes to loved ones, you need to always be setting your family up to have as little to figure out as possible at the time of your demise.  Thankfully my father had a life insurance policy and, when he passed three years ago, all funeral costs were taken care of.  But, had he not, my family would’ve been in a tight bind because there weren’t thousands of dollars we could pull from to pay for a service.  In the unfortunate case that you ever end up dealing with the passing of a family member who didn’t have their affairs in order, this article is a great starting point for dealing with the financial burdens associated with transitioning from this life to the next. 

by Lynnette Khalfani-Cox

When Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passed away this month, he left behind a huge legacy – and a huge financial fortune too. Since Jobs was one of the richest men in America, his family undoubtedly had no problem paying for his funeral and putting Jobs to rest.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case with many other Americans. It’s a sad reality that many families and individuals have to deal with, but the truth is that when many people pass away, their family members or close friends struggle to afford the funeral.

Knowing what to do when you can’t afford to bury a relative can help to relieve some of the stress and heartache of this difficult time.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the national average cost of a funeral with a vault was $7,775 in 2010. The cost of a burial without the casket was about $4,265 that same year. For many grieving families, paying thousands of dollars to bury a relative just isn’t economically feasible.

If a loved one passes away and the burial and funeral costs are out of your budget, here’s what you need to do:

Analyze the individual’s life insurance policy

Determine whether some or all of the burial and funeral costs are covered under the deceased’s life insurance policy. Talk to an agent in person or over the phone to go over all of the details, limitations and stipulations associated with the policy so that you understand what is and isn’t covered. You may find that a good percentage of the funeral costs are already covered based on life insurance the individual had on the job or a life insurance policy they bought on their own.

Review low-cost burial options

Cremating someone is usually less expensive than burying the individual in a casket or vault. If your state doesn’t require embalming the body, consider a “green burial” where you don’t have to pay for a vault, headstone or expensive caskets. You can also shop around to find an affordable casket online.

Consider getting a loan

If you have good credit and are comfortable with taking on a personal loan, consider applying for financing from a local bank or credit union in order to pay for the burial. Avoid taking out a cash advance on a credit card because you’ll be responsible for paying very high interest charges and could end up carrying that debt for several months, even years.

Ask other family members to chip in

You may not have to shoulder the responsibility of paying for the burial all by yourself. Consider asking family members to pitch in and help with the costs. Be specific and candid with relatives about how much the funeral costs; ask everyone involved how much they can reasonably contribute; and put together a cost sheet or budget to help you keep track of all of expenses.

Talk to your county coroner’s office

If you simply can’t come up with the money to pay for cremation or burial costs, you can sign a release form with your county coroner’s office that says you can’t afford to bury the family member. If you sign the release, the county and state will pitch in to either bury or cremate the body. The county may also offer you the option to claim the ashes for a fee. But if these also go unclaimed, they will bury the ashes in a common grave alongside other unclaimed ashes.

Obviously, when a person dies it’s a terribly emotional time for that individual’s family members and friends. But it needn’t cause financial turmoil too.

You can do yourself and those you care about a favor by planning ahead and making sure you at least set aside money or have enough life insurance to cover your own burial costs in the event of your unexpected death.

Source: Black Enterprise

This Moment

Good morning. Today is a new day. It is the start of a new week. This moment is one you have never seen before and will never see again. That being said, work. Work right now like you have
never worked before. Students, I know it’s summer. So? Work. Employees, I know it’s Monday. So? Work. Every moment is a gift. People die running marathons, going to work on the highway, even walking into 7-Elevens to get a pack of gum. You’re still here.
That means you have a purpose greater than just making through today. Even if this is your last day, use it to leave a legacy. When you leave this earth, what would you want us to say in remembrance of you? If that moment were to come now, what will would we realistically say? Make the two match up.


Daily Purpose

“The only thing worse than death is a regret-filled coffin.” Jermaine Cole

I don’t believe in the YOLO (You only live once) philosophy as some use it to excuse reckless behavior. But I do believe that dying with regrets because you did not give your all everyday is one of the worst ways to go. Of course, we all will leave this earth knowing there were things we could have done they we didn’t but to have lived a life full of regret is sad. We were given life not only to enjoy it but to make a difference in the lives of others. Those others could be the kids down the street or your own family. But live everyday with purpose so that you won’t die with regrets.