Remembering My Coach

Had it not been for my “accidental” meeting of Frederic Hudson in May 1998, when I was bored on the final afternoon of a Coaching & Mentoring conference and wandered into the vendor expo, I would never have met each of you. I am blessed to have had two precious years learning from and working with this exceptional man, before the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s hijacked him from a life of teaching, speaking, and writing about the adult development journey.

Frederic and I had, at most, three 20-minute coaching conversations in the span of a year, and yet, those 60 minutes of focused attention changed my life, my work, and my world view. Coaching does not have to be a lengthy conversation or a long-term commitment to be powerful. It does require what Frederic brought to the conversation: a fully present mind and heart, curiosity unburdened by assumptions and agendas, and the ability to challenge a coachee’s thinking in a respectful, supportive way. He was a light, not a judge.

It is poignant to me that the co-author of The Joy of Old: A Guide to Successful Elderhood would be unable to follow his own sage advice about how to age with passion and purpose. “And yet, as you’ll read below, in an excerpted note to the Hudson Institute of Coaching community from Frederic’s widow, Pam McLean, he lived into a life unexpected and unwelcome with uncommon grace. When I think of Jeremiah 29:11, I think of my coach as a key part of God’s plan. Through the door that Frederic Hudson helped to open, I found that hope and my future, a future that happily included you.

Frederic Hudson passed away on Monday, February 9th. The visionary behind the Hudson Institute of Coaching nearly 30 years ago, he has been facing into the challenge of Alzheimer’s disease for 15 years. He lived those many years with as much poise and simplicity as any of us can imagine. While the early years included plenty of pleasures – tennis, painting lessons, endless piano and beach walks; the later ones grew harder, yet he remained loving, positive and continuously adjusting his vision of what was possible until these last couple of years.

He is finally released from this part of his journey and I thought it might be fitting to share a poem he wrote long ago. -Pam McLean


We have no words
to carry us beyond
our time,
no symbols to escort us
into a fulfilled future,
what we have and have well
is our fire,
our very here and fully now
to ground us in the moment.
But how our current intensity
relates to grander schemes
Is mere conjecture.

I choose to believe
in purpose without words,
in deity without form,
in unity without beginnings or ends.

Do not ask me to explain.
I believe, and in believing
I experience this day with
mystery and peace.

Frederic M. Hudson
-Written in the late 1990’s

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