Lois Davey

Reflections on Grief and Honesty from Lois Davey Osborn

There is not a single member of the class of ’64 who has not endured the sting of hardship. For some, it has been a broken marriage, for others the onset of disease. For Lois Davey Osborn it was the sudden death of her twenty-year-old daughter, Lia, to a late-night car accident.

Although the shock of that event was devastating, Lois chose not to run away from her grief; she embraced it. Ironically, some of the most troubling moments after Lia’s death occurred when Lois met friends, many of whom felt awkward, not knowing what to do or say. In most cases, they were silent. But, according to Lois, when someone is grieving, silence is an ill-conceived choice.

“The load is lightened when others share the grief,” Lois said. “Their expression of grief validates the life of the loved one. It demonstrates that you, a friend, cared deeply and that Lia was worthy of your sorrow.”

Lois went on to explain that stifling grief can be catastrophic. “Running away from grief is not the answer,” she said. “The sorrow that is buried now will only explode later—maybe years later. I realized that I had to talk about my daughter’s death. And when the tears flowed, I discovered that it helped wash away the grief. It did not extinguish her memory—I think about her every day—but it did ease the consuming sorrow.”

I asked Lois if she had instilled that emotional openness in her son, Spencer.

“Absolutely. Some men think that boys should never cry. I don’t believe that for a moment. My son is open and honest, and it has benefited him in all aspects of his life. I’m proud of him.”

By nature, Lois has always been open and readily available to others. She came to Pasco in 1959 from Naches Heights and immediately became part of the community of kids at McLoughlin Junior High School. “I’ve never had a problem talking to anyone,” she said. “I always figured that everyone has their own niche. What is a weakness for one is a strength for another. So I was never intimidated.”

As Lois said those words, I thought that her prime strength was her honesty. Speaking personally, she is one of the most real persons I have ever met. There is nothing artificial about her. She speaks plainly—sometimes too plainly. “That can get me in trouble,” she confessed. “There are times when I could probably be a bit more diplomatic.”

At the end of the interview, I asked her to define Lois Davey Osborn at age seventy-three.

“I’m satisfied with who I am,” she said. “Although I have my share of aches and pains (who doesn’t), I accept the process of growing older. My interests are not limited to the past. For example, I listen to today’s popular music and keep up-to-date with modern culture. I also love to garden, but I’m no longer obsessed with everything having to be perfect.” She laughed. “These days I can live with a few weeds in the garden and a little dust on the window sill.”

I asked about her son and two grandchildren.

“I have an excellent relationship with all of them,” she said with a broad smile. “I’m honest with them. If they become a little too self-centered, I let them know. There’s no place for entitlement in our family. I try to teach them about the art of listening.”

I asked her to tell me more about listening.

“In today’s world, too many people are addicted to cell phones and iPads and laptops. The problem is they become conditioned to spend no more than three seconds on a single screen before flicking to something else. As a result, their brain is rewired, and their attention span becomes shorter and shorter. Real listening takes time—and commitment.”

At the end of the interview, I asked Lois to tell me about her philosophy in life.

“Live with a positive attitude,” she said quickly. “Love your family, even when you’re tempted to question the wisdom of their choices. Never abandon them. And see the beauty in all things: a rose bush, the shape of a tree, the gentle smile of a friend.”

I confess that Lois has me smiling.

The famous American psychologist Carl Rogers once said that the healthiest people are “genuine, accepting, and empathic.” Although she would fiercely reject the slightest suggestion of perfection, I personally think that Lois Davey Osborn has done a remarkable job at exemplifying that high standard of personal and interpersonal maturity.

A note from Allen Johnson: While planning class reunions, I have seen Lois Davey Osborn work with extraordinary generosity and diligence. Even though she is shy about being in the spotlight, I was glad that she allowed me to write this piece about her. She is definitely a gem.