Working at a small nonprofit at the end of a calendar year is stressful for many nonprofits, the end of the year is like working retail, only instead of sales, what matters is donations, how many and how much. All of this affects what happens in the coming year—and has a tremendous effect on the work I do, and the lives I touch.
And so it was that last week between 7 a.m. Monday and noon on Thursday, I’d already clocked 35 hours. My timesheet covered a lot of territory, from meeting a deadline ordering materials for a monthly event, to updating an online project no later than the monthly event, to unexpectedly learning that we would need a new supplier for products that had to be ordered on a deadline.
Meanwhile, someone told me that they couldn’t help with a project with monthly deliverables. Another volunteer said they could pick that up without a problem. All the while, energy and time were being invested in reviewing a document that had been agreed upon months ago.
Happily, when I checked the mail there was a surprisingly large donation from a foundation. That doesn’t happen often enough for small nonprofits. That windfall necessitated moving up a trip to the bank to make deposits. I got out the deposit book and checked my watch for the date to record the deposits.
I knew it was Thursday, and Movie Club was convening for dinner and a movie review (the movie was Nyad). That’s when the date struck me: it was December 7.
I paused and took a deep breath.
December 7 is the 7th anniversary of the death of my grandson, Brayer. He was a chubby cheeked, rolls of squishy baby fat up and down his thighs, toothless grin, 10-week-old baby when he was removed from life support in a NICU following the worst 24 hours my family has ever experienced.
Just then my phone rang, and I was told to redirect something in a way that was going to consume a huge amount of time in a workday that wasn’t going to extend until 8:30 at night like the night before. I wasn’t missing Movie Club, and I sure wasn’t going to crank up my computer to work after Movie Club. The person telling me to change things up had no idea on December 7 how much I was juggling—and just how much my heart was grieving for Brayer. I hung up and put my hands down on my desk.
Eventually the tears spilled over the bottom of my eyes. The volunteer working at the desk next to mine softly asked if they could do anything. Finally, I choked out the words that I had lost track of the day of the month and just realized it was a hard, horrible, anniversary date in my family.
The volunteer sitting behind the desk told me to go ahead with what worked best for me, to call it a day, they could lock up later, I had done more than enough. It would all be fine. They were right. I decided I wasn’t, and couldn’t, physically or mentally, add more flaming eggs to the ones I was already juggling. I cried in the parking lot while I walked to my car. I cried when I told a second volunteer how awful my morning had been.
The money got to the bank. One order was placed. Another was sorted out and sent for review. My dog Abbie and I took a walk in the sunshine. It will be another year before December 7 comes around again. In the interim, my most important task is to take care of myself, ask for help, and remember that, as my friend and teacher Mary Anne Em Radmacher taught me, “a time that is not now” is ok.
edited by Sarah Mattingly and Janice Lynch Schuster