We lose people in life.
That sounds overly simplistic, and it is. Obviously, we lose people in varying ways, to varying degrees. As kids, we lose our friends when their families move somewhere else, or they go to a different school at some point. We experience a feeling of loss over the end of romantic relationships, sadness when our children move away from home or, maybe, a little relief when we lose irritating people from our day-to-day lives because they move or find themselves in new social or professional circles.
Of course, the most dramatic loss of all is also the most definititive loss of all — when we lose someone to death. There is a finality in that loss that can not be hidden with empty promises of staying in touch. It’s done. It is the memories we have to cling to at that point, and lessons we might have learned from that person that we can carry forward in our lives.
Loss is indeed hard, and the experience of going through it before, to any degree, does not necessarily make it easier the next time. It can still sting. Loss is loss. And, by its very definition, a loss is not a win.
We have lost numerous members of the Coastal Point family over the past 15-plus years, and none of those losses have been fun. Two of our most beloved “family members” have passed away, generating tears and pain amongst those left behind. Some have been relative “short-timers” at the paper, moving on to great opportunities they couldn’t refuse. Some have been decade-plus employees, the kind of people who not only know exactly what they’re doing with their jobs, but have also developed relationships with my wife and daughter over the years — truly becoming family members along the way.
We just lost one of those. And it hurts.
Many of you have met Maria Counts over the years, or at least read her words in this paper. For more than 10 years, Maria has been reporting on news in this community and penning human-interest stories. She has dedicated hundreds of hours to sharing information on the local heroin epidemic, spent unmeasurable time in Council chambers and toiled over the production and content of Delaware Seaside Bride, serving as its founding editor. She is from this area, attended our local schools and has literally dedicated the last 10-plus years of her professional life to trying to make a difference in her hometown.
And, in my never-humble opinion, she has succeeded.
Let me share with you a specific story about how Maria made this community a better place. A few years ago, and some of you might remember this very clearly, Maria wrote a three-piece enterprise piece on the opiod epidemic in our area — with a particular focus on heroin. For the record, before I go any further, Maria was rewarded for her efforts on this monstrous project with an award from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association, a significant organization in our profession.
But that’s not how I know she made a difference. Bear with me.
Shortly after the series had completed, I was walking out of a local grocery store when I ran into a friend who I had not seen in some time. We stopped and chatted for a minute, and he suddenly got very serious.
He told me how much he appreciated the series. With reddening eyes, he shared how he was going through some rough times with a loved one, and that the stories confirmed to him that his wasn’t the only family struggling. He said he had learned about some avenues of treatment through Maria’s work, and offered to share more of his story with us if we felt it could help someone else.
It was moving, to say the least.
For the record, she has also previewed countless amounts of fundraisers for area families, no doubt contributing to more monies being raised for positive causes, and covered Sussex County government and the Town of Ocean View for years, letting people know what was being considered and voted on, thus keeping our community as informed as she could. Maria has indeed improved the quality of life for her hometown, and that is a noble effort by any measure. And, oh yeah, she’s awesome.
She’s kind, helpful and generous. She has baked cakes and various other sweet delights for office birthday parties, served as confidante and advisor to many of the people here on a personal level and babysat co-workers’ children — that in itself displays the kind of trust people here have placed in Maria.
As for me, I’ll most miss our talks in my office. We would talk politics, writing styles, travel, cooking and family. What was intended to be a five-minute conversation on the next step for a particular article would transform into a 30-minute discussion on the brilliance of “Psyche.” And I’ll miss that more than words can explain.
The best of luck to you on your next journey, Maria. You have been a respected colleague and highly-valued friend.
Carry our love with you as a badge of honor.