Rest in Peace, Irene
Last week while in Paris I received news that one of our clients died unexpectedly.
She was over 80 years old and had gone into the hospital for a routine checkup. They found cancer. Within 2 months she passed.
We were able to complete an important project for her last year, after nearly 2 years of very complex negotiations. The exit was successful for all parties involved. At the time, we (the consultants) had the lingering doubt that perhaps we could have done better.
The deal was completed in late June of last year. Only 9 months later COVID hit. Only 15 months later, this month, our client died.
We gained her a good outcome, but had absolutely no idea things would wind up like they did. Today, the sector she was working in has been devastated. And she has passed away.
Before doing so, she made sure all her taxes were paid; her three children were cared for; everything was squared away. Every obligation taken care of.
She was born in a different Greece. A different world. She lived through the Nazi invasion in World War II and the Civil War as a child. She lived through the dolce vita years of the 1960s and saw the dictatorship come and go.
By 1980, when the old, Karamanlis-led order was consigned to history and Andreas Papandreou ushered in his brand of caviar socialism, she and her husband were already established and able to grow their business through the great expansion and liberalization that took place from 1981 to 2009.
Thirty years of “big boom”: media and banking liberalization; EU entry; the Euro; socialist party procurement; the fall of Olympic and the rise of Aegean; villas in Mykonos; loans for vacations in Bali; skyrocketing property prices in Kolonaki and Kifissia and Vouliagmeni.
And then, of course, the fall. The sovereign debt crisis that started in late 2009 has dragged Greece down a hole from which recovery will be difficult. Equally difficult will be changing the values and mores of 40 years of entitlement policies and clientelist socialism.
While her husband developed something of a reputation, she stayed true to the ancien regime values, and to her children. When her husband passed away, she did her best to manage their business for 10 years, before being able to solve a very complex situation last year.
Those 10 years coincided with the Greek crash, and through it she maintained her values and her loyalty to her staff and to the operations that she was bequeathed.
I find myself reflecting on those values and the lessons she taught me. She reminded me a little bit of my Greek grandmother, but a Chanel-wearing grandmother who had travelled the world and had the business acumen of a hawk.
We spend so much time and effort on what we think is important. And one day, when we pass, it all gets left behind. Ashes and dust. And memories that linger.
Rest in Peace.