10/29/49 – 8/30/08
A Remembrance by Carl Schneider
My wife, Sharon Pickett, 58, died of breast cancer on August 30, 2008 in Bethesda, Maryland.
Sharon had a rich, professional work life. Before she came to mediation, she was Director of Communications for three national nonprofit organizations and then was a communications consultant for many progressive nonprofit organizations, including the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Physicians for Social Responsibility. Sharon was hired by ACR’s first executive director, Daniel Bowling, to work with staff on a wide range of projects before and after the merger. She helped create ACResolution magazine and edited every issue from its founding until she resigned when she was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer last September.
Because of Sharon’s work for over a decade helping environmental NGOs, ACR established the Sharon M. Pickett Award in 2008 to honor an ACR member who had advanced the cause of environmental protection through the effective use of alternative dispute resolution (Alice Shorett in 2008).
Sharon’s own mediation work, however, was primarily family and divorce mediation. She worked as a co-mediator and trainer with Mediation Matters. After a long personal and professional partnership, Sharon and I were married December 27, 2007.
In Maryland, Sharon was a certified mediator with the Maryland Council on Dispute Resolution and was instrumental in developing its performance-based certification process as a member of MCDR’s Certification Committee. MCDR has also established its own Sharon M. Pickett Award for the Promotion of Excellence in Mediation.
For all her dedicated work for protecting the environment, preserving world peace and empowering women, her life’s greatest joy and achievement was raising her daughter Tassie. Her deepest regret was that knowing she would not be able to be here for her two beautiful grandchildren, Shannon and Connor.
For those who knew Sharon, for all her professional contributions, it was her spirit that touched people. She was easy-going, kind, compassionate, and gentle - combined with a fierce love of life and a wonderful combination of funny crazy and serious, bright sides. As a friend said, “she was a lover.” She loved life. And we were all better people when we were with her. I know I was so very lucky to have been with her.
If there was any possibility, Sharon was determined to overcome this disease. She dedicated herself to do everything possible to live. She engaged the cancer with everything she had - chemo, alternative treatment, meditation, friends, prayer, wisdom, love and discipline. And she never stopped. Two days before she died, when she could only get up out of bed with great difficulty, she insisted I take her for a chemo treatment. She did all this not from an angry place, but with humility and her quiet dignity and from a place of gratitude to which she returned again and again. That was Sharon. In the face of all that was happening to her, I never heard her complain. She just persevered, undeterred, buying Christmas presents from her wheelchair for her family a week before she died The last TV show Sharon ever saw was Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. She said, “I want to live to see him elected.”
Sharon’s was a quiet presence. Perhaps the people who best knew and appreciated Sharon were staff at ACR who had the privilege of working with her.
Heather Prichard, former Direction of Communications and close friend of Sharon’s, tells how at her birthday party Sharon commented on the sunflower wrapping paper: “You know why the sunflower is my favorite? No matter how dark the day, sunflowers work to find a ray of light and literally turn their faces toward it. They live fully and beautifully, regardless of circumstance.” “That’s how I’d like to be remembered,” she told me, and then—forever pragmatic--asked, “Will you speak about that at my memorial service?” That was Sharon – she was sunny.
Mark Shawchuk, former ACR Publications Manager who worked with Sharon, said, “You could always count on her for wisdom… Her wisdom came from her incredibly capacity to seek out life in all of its richness, and never to shy away from a challenge. An academic dean, a magician's assistant, a mediator, a grandmother, and a rock musician, Sharon wore more hats in her life than most of us could in several lifetimes.”
Jen Druliner, former ACR Program Manager, captured so well Sharon’s spirit: “You’re a wonderful inspiration in the category of living with no regrets, and with a great generosity of spirit – and a healthy dose of not taking oneself too seriously, combined with innate dignity. You’re a keeper, no doubt!”
Another friend of Sharon’s who also was dying of cancer sent her a quote from Camus. Sharon left a hand-written note when she died asking that it be in her memorial service. “in the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” That is the quote on the memorial bench for Sharon in Newburyport, MA., where Sharon had a second home.
We loved to exchange greeting cards. One I gave her in her last month said: “Life is short, but it is wide.” Sharon’s life was short, but very wide.
There is a memorial web page for Sharon at http://sharonpickett.legacy.com/lmw/Homepage.aspx.