A Matter of Life and Death: What I’ve Learned over the Past Six Months

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My brother Dr. Allan Rosen and Macy

My brother, Dr. Allan Rosen and Macy

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted a blog. Well, looking back on the last six months, I guess it is believable. It has been quite a journey, and it has made me appreciate even more my decision to be en entrepreneur.

For those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you know that my beautiful baby, Macy, was born in May. I had planned to take three months off to enjoy quiet time with her, but that would not have prevented me from writing a blog or two. Unfortunately, my brother, Allan, went into the hospital with complications from Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia on June 30th.

Nothing that I have ever been through prepared me for the months that followed. What started out as a fever turned into three months of sitting by Allan’s bedside, watching him endure unsuccessful treatments, near-death experiences and a great deal of pain and suffering. Finally, on September 25th, Allan passed away.

My brother’s passing was significant for a few reasons. First, he was my brother. I come from a very close family, so losing him was traumatic for me, my brother Ron and his wife, my mother, my children and my sister-in-law. We are still working through the mourning process and we miss him every day.

His passing was also significant because he’s the one who made pursuing my dream of being an entrepreneur possible. Allan was a brilliant doctor. He was also smart, wealthy and, luckily for me, very generous. He knew that I wouldn’t be happy to sit behind a desk from 9 to 5 every day. So he invested in me. He gave me the seed money I needed to purchase equipment and to live for a while until Just Marry! started making money. I knew that no matter what happened with my company, I would never be homeless or hungry.

Allan was also a great foil. My parents, my mom especially, were always great cheerleaders. Everything I did was genius, well thought out and extraordinary. Allan, however, was not afraid to call me an idiot or to tell me to think through things a little longer. He was difficult to impress, so I always worked extra hard to get his approval. So now my muse with whom I discussed all of my business triumphs and failures is gone. It is my fondest hope that he can still see me so that he can see the exciting direction that my team and I are taking the company.

Allan’s passing also made me realize what an incredible team I have put together. I have never had to rely so much on others to make the company run. This year, I was completely absent until mid-October. Not only did the team keep things running smoothly, but for the months I was gone, we shattered our previous years’ sales records. It makes me think I should be absent more often!

This brings me back to what I said about having a renewed appreciation for being an entrepreneur. Because I work for myself, I’m able to spend a lot of time with my family. We take frequent vacations together, eat weekly dinners together, and spend a lot of quality time with each other. I wouldn’t have the freedom to do that in a traditional job with a traditional vacation policy.

I’ve also been able to take time off to care for each of my children after their births, and I was there for my brother when he was sick and my family when they were grieving. Again, if I had a more traditional job, this wouldn’t have been as easy for me to do.

I read an article while I was out about a teacher whose wife was terminally ill with cancer. Even though other teachers offered to donate their paid leave to allow the teacher to spend his wife’s last few weeks with her, the school board wouldn’t honor the request. My heart ached for him.

My company has always had an informal policy regarding employees taking time off to enjoy vacations, go to school plays, care for family members, etc. I tell my employees, if you need time off, take it. But now I’m going to make it a formal, written policy. I want everyone who works with me to enjoy one of the greatest benefits of entrepreneurship: taking time to enjoy life. No one should ever have to make a choice between job security and spending time with a loved one.

Perhaps my brother’s greatest legacy won’t be my successful career, but my appreciation for everything else in life. Because of his help, I will be able to allow others to have the gift of time with those they love.

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