Let’s Celebrate a Brilliant Woman Today: Marla Richler

This post is co-written by three people. I collaborated with my siblings, Neil Richler and Darcie Richler, as we celebrate the most special woman in our lives, our mother, Marla Richler.

Whoever said ‘it’s the journey, not the destination” probably never retired. From what we hear, retirement is quite the destination!  

Today, our amazing mother Marla Richler (AKA Marla Gomberg to her work colleagues) is retiring after nearly 50 years in the social work field. She achieved a Master’s degree from McGill University by the time she was 22 and devoted the first ten years of her career to children in the Montreal school system then to youth at the Ontario Official Guardian’s Office. Marla spent the last 35 years working as a clinical social worker at a GTA hospital and covered everything from the ER, surgery, the ICU, palliative care, rehab, medicine and her true passion of geriatric medicine (and probably a lot more than that). 

Our mother has been on the front line, in the trenches.  She has fearlessly worked with the vulnerable, the marginalized, the weak, the frail and the very sick.  Her heart has ALWAYS been in the right place and her brain is always set to  “GO GO GO”.   You want something done?  Call Marla. You want it done with high energy and total positivity?  Definitely call her!

Even when we were young, our mom never stopped working.  Our dad had a very demanding and intense career and travelled often.  Somehow, Marla managed to do it all.  Never was she late for carpool, after school activities, dance recitals, etc.  Our food was home cooked with love and she endlessly pushed us all to achieve great things.

And her work. It was her real baby (well except for maybe her dogs!!).  Anyone lucky enough to be supported by our mom knows just how lucky they are.  Over the years our family connected with countless people who Marla had cared for during their time of need.  Patients and their families became beloved people in her life, often regularly following up with her for many years to come.   Our mom TRULY cared about each and every person who was in her charge.  And let us tell you, clinical social work isn’t for the faint of heart. Our mom was a rock, often a shoulder to lean on or cry on, for people during their difficult times.  She advocated and fought for her patients, all the while offering kindness and respect to everyone she encountered.

Over the years, we had the opportunity to get to know many of her colleagues well.  From doctors to nurses, to orderlies and other social workers, we learned that our mom was a true superhero.  Doctors would call her at home to follow up on a patient, knowing that they would be better off calling at night with important information instead of waiting until the next day.  Those who know our mom understand the kind of devotion that she has maintained with her work.

And, let us not forget, her mentorship.  Over the years our mom has mentored and supported too many social workers and students to name.  She LOVED this.  It would take hours of her unpaid time, but she passionately guided and helped the newcomers to the office become the talented professionals that they are today.  In particular, our mom has always been incredibly protective of the young women who have entered the workforce.  Her love for the “younger generation” was endless.  Helping other women find a balance between work and home and everything in between was something she cared about deeply.  To this day, she has colleagues who are in constant need of her support.  She offers it with a complete and open heart.  

If it isn’t obvious enough yet, we are very, very proud of her!  To add, this is the second pandemic that she has worked through.  Her experience with SARS, though very scary, was invaluable on this round.  

As we celebrate our mother and all her incredible achievements,  there is another side to today as well.  Our mother is retiring today because she felt had to. She believed she didn’t have a choice. 

Over the last decade, our mom has felt drained and pushed around by the leadership at the hospital.  As someone who showed up to each work day with her best possible attitude, she felt incredibly depleted by the workplace politics and power trips. One would think that this exhaustion would come from the years of hard work, but in fact, her patients bring her joy, and helping them energizes her.

While we are disappointed that her clinical career, that spanned almost 50 years, is concluding this way, we know it will come as a great relief to our mom to not have so much stress at this point in her life.  

We are sharing this information with our mom’s permission.  She was ok with us doing so because she cares. Maybe someone will read this and see the compassionate place that it is coming from.  So many individuals have retired in recent months and years feeling the same way.  And there are many others who are too scared to speak out.

The workplace that our mother entered in 1985 was clearly ahead of its time, with strong and capable leadership and good people steering the ship.  Colleagues looked after each other and operated in a caring environment that encouraged and supported team work. There was little or no drama and tight bonds were formed that have lasted to today. There was no room for immature behaviour or pettiness.  We are sad to say that it seems that today’s leadership in the current organization has a lot of work to do to maintain a basic level of respect and integrity.  The pandemic threw this observation into technicolour.  It was very clear to us that our level headed and hard working mom did not feel safe working there anymore.  At 70, she was not willing to risk her health to be working in person (factoring in everything currently going on in the world), knowing the potential for danger. Our mom has worked because she wanted to, not because she had to.  Thankfully she was in a position where she could have an easier time making this decision.

Even with that said, today is still a day to celebrate.  A career like this one had a lot more ups than downs.  And yet, our mom still has passion in her.  She is not ready to stop and actually retire. She has decided to set up her own, private practice to support patients and their families who need expertise with aging and later life transitions.  And yes, we will continue to brag about her.

Mom, you truly led by example.  We absorbed so much of your goodness over the years just by watching you in action.  You taught us to open our eyes fully and help when we can.  Your WAZE is always set to the high road, which is probably why you got as far as you did.  

Wishing you a giant mazel tov.  May we all continue to learn from you and be blessed with such long and fulfilling careers.  May others still get to benefit from your great wisdom and compassion for years to come.  May you find the balance between offering that support and doing every single thing that you love.  We are so lucky to have you. 






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