Friday, January 30, 2009

Remembering CDM Redux

If you're wondering what's going on here, my blog had a mal-function and this entry was lost. It turns out to be a very special one for me and lots of people. So, it's being reposted along with the comments. Funny, yesterday was Charlie's birthday. And, today I had to repost my entry about him. He loved a good joke. I'd say this is his way of letting us know he's not so far away and still has a trick or two up his sleeve. Enjoy!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Early November is important to me for many reasons, a primary one being that it marks the anniversary of the sudden and all-too-soon passing away of Charles D. Mross who is known by those who call him friend and loved-one as, Charlie. And, for those of us who worked for and with him, also as CDM because of his way of using his initials to sign off on everything.

Charlie is one of those individuals whose passing never gets easier to accept. He's important enough that you simply become aware that, while the fun experiences one has in life add color and dimension to your personality, enduring loss and learning to live despite it, adds back bone and steel to one's soul. I believe Charlie would be glad to know that he added those qualities to our lives.

I had the pleasure, and sometimes painful opportunity, of working for Charlie for over six years as his Communications Director. In retrospect, they are the best professional years I ever had or am likely to have. It didn't start that way; in the beginning, Charlie made me uncomfortable-intimidated me, even. I often felt breathless or overwhelmed by him. Let's just say that Charlie had the quick-twitch style of a sprinter. He raced through everything...meetings, hall-ways, conversations. He was highly competitive and saw those around him as his team of whom he expected the same level of competitive energy. So, here's me, a woman who won't even run from a burning building attempting to work with a guy who lived as though his hair's on fire! Yikes.

The competitive spirit was apparent in our introductory meeting in CDM's office. It was the first of hundreds where I sat facing him, leg's crossed with his foot up on his knee. No socks on... a CEO who doesn't wear socks? Cool. Sitting in the high-backed leather chair that I nick-named, 'The Throne." He alertly watched me that meeting, allowing Bill Thomas, the V.P. of Medical Affairs, to ask all the questions. I was pretty sure Charlie was watching to determine if he liked my style. At the end of this vetting process, Charlie asked, "So, here's the important question, do you golf?" I looked him square and said, "No. But, I am a black belt in Aikido." He looked at Bill and back at me, "Okay, you win!" I didn't know him well enough to understand it as an indicator of his subtle, sometimes very subtle, sense of humor. And, I didn't know the importance of those words, "You win," coming out of his mouth, but I was to learn.

In the beginning, he was not my direct boss- that came later. Early on, I'd have these brief, shot-gun exposures to him. I called them, CDM Drive-by's. Mostly, I'd walk away feeling as though I hadn't done enough or failed miserably. "What the hell does this guy want from me? He makes me crazy, how the hell was I supposed to think of all that!!!" I'd go back to the office fuming thinking, "Crap, I hate this guy! There's no pleasing him."

Then, one day, Spirit sent insight when I had the pleasure of meeting his charming, warm, wonderful wife, Eileen. (You'll read more about her in other entries because she's very important to my life learning.) I couldn't imagine that this composed woman with an infectious giggle and charm could be married to CDM! But, looking in her eyes I could see clearly that she adored him. Next, I met his children; all polite, pleasant, and easy-going. They, too, had that look of respect and love. What the hell?

And, that's one of my biggest life lessons, thanks to CDM & Eileen. Up until then, if I didn't like a person, it was all about them, not me. However after meeting his family, I had to wonder, what was I missing about this guy? If he has such a great wife and kids, how can he be the crazoid I think? What am I missing? Through those questions I learned the invaluable lesson of looking at the complete person, not just the bell-jar of the current experiences; the necessity of discerning substance instead of fixating on style.

Eileen and the kids turned that relationship around simply through my exposure to them. I began to see the real part of CDM- the truth of him. He was competitive, but he wanted all of us to be winners. He did expect way too much of us at times, but that was only a fraction of what he expected of himself. He did want us to think ahead, but he expected himself to be visionary. He did want all of us to do our jobs completely every work day, but he expected himself to impact, for the positive, the entirety of health care in Maryland. Because he demonstrated that passion about his own performance, I came in every day determined to make my efforts reflect his.

Sadly, we entered dark days of restructuring, merging, aggressively building a health system. Instead of a successful community hospital on a mission to deepen its roots, we became the flagship of a commodity pimped out to the highest bidder. The war took a toll on lots of things. Satisfaction. Performance. Peace. Relationships. In the turbulence, somehow, I became a trusted ear and assistant. Someone who Charlie could depend on to allow him, when frustrated, angry or overwhelmed, to be a Human Being while never forgetting that he was the CEO. I was honored to be that for him. Even more deeply honored when, eventually, I became his friend.

I was cornered to take a position at the corporate office. I say cornered, because even though it was a promotion, it was a lot like living inside of a tooth-paste tube...the closer you get to the top, the faster you get squeezed out. "I don't want to go, Charlie. You and I both know what it's like there." He agreed but warned that with the current downsizing of management initiative, if I didn't go, he'd most likely have to eliminate my position. More importantly, he would never be able to promote me as he believed I had earned. "What do I do," I asked. "You go; ride it for as long as it lasts. You take your chances. It's all you can do," he said with a slight smile.

So, I did. The ride didn't last long- it was never intended to last long. That's the way they moved people out, by moving them up. Eventually, even CDM got caught in the back wash of negative movement. He left as CEO and after a very difficult time, moved on with his life, taking his chances, too. And, it was during the transition to this new opportunity, that Spirit decided CDM had run the very last of his life marathon to the finish line.

Charlie is never far from my thoughts; a dear friend always remains so. But, in these early days of November, he strides even more boldly through my mind. I'll finish with this CDM story. My department was responsible for a slew of publications. The outstanding editor who worked with me is a guy named, Frank Moorman. Frank is the best writer I know. Excellent, in fact. Here's a testament to how well he writes; CDM trusted Frank to write on his behalf and only required that we run it past him for any additions he might think to add. Unprecedented! One afternoon I get, "The Call," as my fabulous secretary Jo named them, to CDM's office. On his desk rests Frank's copy with only minor red-ink and I breathe a sigh of relief.

So what's up, I wonder. Charlie looks at me and says, "This is good, except for the major mistake. Do you know what it is?" Oh, great, a CDM Pop Quiz...I hate those. I look it over and can't see a thing. "No, Charlie, I'm afraid I don't."

He takes out his red pen and boldly circles a section where Frank has written, " of the premiere hospitals in Maryland..." I just look at it bewildered and admit still I'm not getting his point. He slowly caps the pen. Sits back in his seat, levels his gaze and says, "Holly, in life you can either be 'one' of many or, you can be 'premiere.' But you can't be one of the premiere." The room got completely still. The stillness that I now recognize happens when Spirit is speaking. "Thanks Charlie, I'll take that under advisement," I say as I leave his office.

Thank you for everything, CDM. For recognizing potential in me that I did not know I possess and helping me to grow into my professional power. For requiring I try harder when I thought I had no try left. For the opportunity to learn the importance of being a trusted confidant. For never settling. For being a loving man with integrity. For the lesson of the necessity to run the best race possible to the finish line. For being my friend. And, mostly, for instilling the passion to be premiere.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Posted by Holly at 6:40 AM

Eileen said...
My heart has no words ... I can barely make a sound ... does your Spirit hear me anyway?
November 7, 2008 10:05 AM

KAMross2 said...
Thank you so much for this amazing gift.
November 7, 2008 11:45 AM

LionKing said...
What an enlightening, powerful tribute to someone I never had the privilege of meeting...yet who has immensely impacted my life by his mentoring of my wonderful partner and wife...what an awsome power some people have to influence those who come after...and what a wonderful remembrance from the Queen to CDM's family.
November 7, 2008 2:47 PM

Kerrian said...
Holly - a hug from me to you for your wonderful words - love ya, Kerrian
November 7, 2008 5:48 PM

MelissaS said...
I technically worked for Mr. Mross (as I knew him) thru you. I guess I only had those drive-by moments with him. I had no clue what was happening behind the scenes.I am sorry he passed. And warm fuzzies to Eileen.
November 8, 2008 1:33 AM

Lauren said...
November 11, 2008 9:42 AM

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you'll never believe how this came back into my life at this moment! Scott - the guy I was dating when I left Dayton sent me the link on facebook this morning. I read a couple sentences before leaving for work - late again..., wiped a few tears away and got sucked into another busy day. Came home, cooked for my 2 clients, paid my helper, ate some veggies and returned to the unfinished business of the day. Wow. Great job, Holly. I think my intro to CDM was no less impactful/fearful, but backwards! Meeting EKM and the kids first. 'Sitting' with the kids and seeing his dashing self dash in and out. Living there - basking in the glow of their incredible family and love!
One day, I introduced Scott to the Mross Family - WAY so much pressure - for him and me. Scott was not much younger than Charlie - yet I sought the approval of Charlie and Eileen much more than my parents. Always loving, always generous, always thinking of me and my best interest.
Anyway - too tired, overwhelmed by my still uncontrolled life! I'll often return to this story - to remind me of so many things. My trip 'through' deliverance' with Holly, so many beautiful memories with every single Mross, and the pain I still experience when remembering this overwhelming loss.
I can't figure out how to post with my name - so until I discover how to squeeze more time into my life! Laurie(a) Cotton

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

My Previous Musings