I suppose it was five years ago that on a cool November day I met Sarah Nichols outside my Friday job (not Empty Arms) and took a walk with her; what was meant to be maybe thirty minutes and ended up being hours of collar-turned-up, bracing the cold because the conversation was too great to stop walking. Sarah was interested in our work both as a women’s health advocate, but probably more so because she herself was a surviving twin who had lived a life that was shadowed with baby-loss grief. Sarah came on first as our intern, and was then hired as our Project Coordinator, a specifically vague title which essentially allowed her to be the supporting body behind all of the work we do at Empty Arms. As the fiercely-multitasking director of this nuanced organization, I have never felt so grateful for a persons’ organization, steadfast communication skills, and deep, careful thinking. With Sarah in the co-pilots’s chair, we were able to accomplish so much: from bringing in new, and very helpful grants, to producing robust written materials, and solidifying our companion program.
But all the while that she worked for us, Sarah’s clock was ticking. From the beginning, we knew that Sarah would leave us to pursue her dreams of becoming a nurse midwife. Knowing how enmeshed we were as a working team, Sarah and I worked thoughtfully to think about her transition out of her position and to plan an long, thorough overlap with the person who would succeed her.
I put so much thought into who on this great planet could possibly step into Sarah’s shoes. I harbored great anxiety about the balls that might be dropped: picturing Sarah’s gentle reminders that kept me on track, knowing the great initiative she took that was the result of her incredibly thorough knowledge of our work. How would we find someone?
Advertising didn’t seem sufficient, and there wasn’t someone who had been helping our organization who was in the position to take on 20+ hours of work per week. So I began to think, and one day, out of the blue, a name and a kind, beautiful, gentle face popped into my head.
This face belonged to a woman who would give you not just the shirt off her back, but her socks, hair tie, and cell phone too. I knew from a past experience of coaching several teams with that she was supremely organized, put in 150% every single day, and was full of really contagious energy. Beyond that, she was also a person who was a certified death doula: meaning that she was hired to spend time with individuals at the end of their lives, and to honor their passage out of this world. Perhaps she could be the one? I sent out an exploratory email… which turned into a coffee date… where I made a profound discovery.
Not only was this woman comfortable with death, and was she able to have conversations with me about caring for the dead, and honoring grief while making direct eye contact, but she herself had experienced two pregnancy losses. One, a miscarriage near the end of her first trimester, and the other the loss of a twin baby girl while pregnant for the fourth time. Her eyes glittered as I told her of the systems and programs we’d built at Empty Arms, and her hand moved furiously over the page as she took page after page of notes as we talked. By last March, we had a plan in place: this woman would begin working for us part time in April, and by late May would be full time, overlapping with Sarah, until Sarah left in August.
Ladies, Gentlemen, and EveryPerson, let me introduce you to Lisa Hamilton, for whom I am beyond grateful.
Lisa has proven herself to be an absolutely fantastic, dynamic part of Empty Arms. She has come up with dozens of new ideas for us to pursue, she is 100% capable of keeping me on track, and her history as a bereaved parent has given me a co-conspirator who can step in and work with families in a way that I’ve never experienced thus far at Empty Arms. The overlap with Sarah was a beautiful thing to watch, because not only did Sarah gently, carefully and thoroughly hand over the reigns to Lisa, but the two of them became great friends in the process.
I am so grateful to have both of these women as part of the Empty Arms team, Sarah as one who has created a legacy for herself in terms of carving out a position at Empty Arms, and Lisa who has stepped gracefully into this position and kept the ship not just sailing, but is charting her own new and successful course.
Thank you to Lisa and Sarah! I love both of you and I’m so grateful that Empty Arms has had you to help our growth and sustainability!