This City Year Life: Finding Meaning in Loss

As I walked up the driveway to my cousin’s house on Christmas Day, I felt a sharp pang of grief. Many people experience melancholic feelings around the holidays: memories of past unhappy events, disagreements with relatives, old wounds reopened. The pain I felt, however, was not for what I would encounter when the door opened rather the pain was for what I knew I would not find: my uncle Dan. Absent would be his boisterous greeting, “Hey Nat!” and his trademark laugh expressing his genuine joy in our arrival.

Corps Member Natalie Bograd

My uncle, Daniel Hubbard, died unexpectedly of a heart attack on August 30th, 2011. He was on his bike riding home from the law-firm where he worked, on his way to have dinner with his family. His death marked the beginning of my corps year and the beginning of a season of mourning for my family—my mom losing her younger brother, my grandmother experiencing the horror of having to bury her son, my aunt and cousins trying to comprehend the hole left in their lives by their husband and father.

             When someone dies suddenly, life perseveres, no matter how much we wish we could halt the progress of time and try to recover what we lost.

My uncle was a respected lawyer at the height of his career. My cousin Brian had just started college, my cousin Kristin landed her dream job as a Program Manager at City Year Denver, and my cousin Jennifer was entering her fourth year of teaching. They still get up each morning and do their life’s work, knowing their dad would be proud—as do I.

When we lost Uncle Dan, I was following Kristin’s footsteps, becoming the second person in the family to serve as a City Year corps member. While I knew from the first day of school at Cureton that City Year would be a life changing experience, my uncle’s death demonstrated how unique the City Year community is and how valuable my daily service is. The City Year San Jose community reached out to me and made me feel supported and loved. My team has taken care of me with the compassion and understanding of a family.

            I dedicated my year of service to my Uncle Dan’s memory, and each time I feel overwhelmed by long hours, challenging students, and lack of sleep, I remember how privileged I am to be alive, and able to serve.

Each Friday, when we gather as a site, a phrase that seemed frankly insincere before has taken on a new meaning.

Natalie serves on the Walmart Foundation team at Cureton Elementary

Someone says, “Today is Friday, and you have lived to serve another day.” We all respond “and that’s a beautiful thing.”

There is now poignancy behind those words for me. We are all lucky to live and serve another day, even if there are pieces of us missing.

-Natalie Bograd, Corps Member CYSJ


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