Yesterday, a dear friend, mentor and philanthropist, Ann Bear, lost her struggle with cancer, and passed away.
Jewish texts teach of thirty-six light-bringers who wander the earth sharing love and compassion with all. Ann Bear was one of those people. After I got to know her better, I would watch her as she worked the room at a philanthropic event. She would leave a trail of positive energy in her wake.
I happened to meet Ann on two consecutive days at Jewish events and then bumped in to her as I entered, and she exited, the building of the SF Jewish Federation. I was on a low professionally, and quite surprised when I blurted out how amazing she is to be all the time working for philanthropic causes.
She looked at me in astonishment. No, she told me, she is blessed to have a partner in Irwin who can put her in this position and who encourages her to spend her time in this way.
Anyway, she said, I am the one who is amazing, and went on to tell me of the important work I am doing and how inspiring I am to her.
I walked away, my body straighter, with a big smile on my face.
That is the effect that Ann had on many others and me. It is for us to learn and emulate the way in which she lived her life. It is what I believe she would most want.
I visited Ann last week and spent almost four hours with her. She insisted that we focus on a project that she was helping me with. When I kept asking if she needed to stop to rest, she refused. She felt a sense of urgency and the need to give as much as she could while she still could. She lived her life for others right up until the end.
We must celebrate her life and continue to walk in her path. There is no greater way to pay tribute.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. His next novel, Unwanted Heroes, is due out in early 2013. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).