|GHOST OF A CHANCE: Me, my brothers Ed and Pat, in a very very old photo|
I'm the youngest of 10; he is the oldest. IQ-wise, Pat might have outscored the rest of us, and he was a huge reader. Had Pat lived, he would have devoured every word I've written: every paragraph, tweet or blog. After all, I'm his baby brother.
Anyway, I want to tell you how, just a few months ago, despite being dead, Pat saved my professional butt.
I was on assignment for a business magazine and had to interview the CEO of a huge and well-known Canadian company. After to'ing and fro'ing with the CEO and her public-relations people, they agreed to give me three hours of her time.
When I told my brother Tom (the third oldest of us), he estimated her annual salary and said, "That's pretty expensive time you're getting there, Peter."
I know. I did not want to mess up.
I always want whatever story I'm working on to be my best, and this was no different.
Before the interview, I submitted a list of questions and took to the meet-up not one but two audio-recording devices.
Fast forward to the event. I was in the boardroom, with the CEO and two of her aides. Before we got to the business of, well, business, I asked, "Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
Her: "Yes, a couple of sisters."
Me: "Are they executives, too?"
Her: "No.. one is a teacher and the other"...long pause..."died two weeks ago."
And she started crying. Not sniffling like somebody reporting a lost wallet to police, but sobbing, because her much-loved sister had just died. Between sobs, she said, "sorry, I'm so sorry," and her assistant handed over handfuls of Kleenex.
I'm not a psychopath. I felt really badly. At the same time, I knew this could go way off the rails fast, and I had a story to write. I wasn't about to say, "Enough about your sister. Let's get back to interest rates."
I was stuck.
Something occurred to me.
"Actually," I said, "I kind of know where you're coming from. My oldest brother Pat died when I was about your age."
I had her attention. I--maybe Pat via me--continued: "And you know what? I'm still mad at him. I am sure he did it to get out of helping us move into our new house."
She laughed! I laughed. I swear Pat laughed. I also swear he salvaged my interview.
If Pat showing up just in time to save his little brother isn't proof of an afterlife, I don't know what is and furthermore, I don't care.
The older I get the more I'm sure the people who preceded me will be there when I need them.
I fully intend to do the same.