A coworker and friend of mine died tragically in a car accident last evening. I heard about it first thing this morning from his leader as he sat in my office and calmly told me face to face about our loss. I sank into my chair in shock, the waves of tears completely overcoming me. I listened to the words he told me, but couldn’t grasp their meaning. Someone I saw or talked to nearly every day was gone…just like that. I was devastated. Overcome with grief. I managed to compose myself for short periods of time throughout the day, but eventually the reality of it all floods me again and I can’t catch my breath. It’s so shocking and sudden, my mind can’t make heads or tails of it. Just two days ago, I sat on a stool next to this man, having a drink with other coworkers. Shooting the breeze, telling stories, laughing and teasing one another. And that will be the last time.
I just celebrated my 11th anniversary at this job – on this team – with many of the same people. This man was one of them. He was an incredible asset to his team. Intelligent beyond reason – he was just TOO good it seemed at what he did. He was an IT developer with an amazing memory and grasp of our business and our systems. We often joked that if he ever left the company, several of us would have to leave too…because we couldn’t fathom doing our jobs without him. And now, we will have to do just that. Only we can’t call him up at his new job and pick his brain. I can’t just e-mail him when I have a question or issue. And while I’m sure that in time, other folks will be able to do so…they won’t be him. They won’t have his same calming way – his easy, effortless ability to patiently explain and teach. They won’t have his off the wall sense of humor. They won’t be able to tease me and joke with me the way he did. And my heart is deeply sad at the thought.
So much of my daily work involved interactions with him. So many times, I’m sure that I exasperated him with my questions or complaints. But always, ALWAYS he was helpful to me. He encouraged me, supported me, and made me work harder to be better. Not that I could ever aspire to be his equal – but his approval and acceptance are things I always strive for. I respected him so very much and his accident prone nature and good sense of humor endeared him to me. I joked with our intern this summer…gushing about how much we love him and couldn’t imagine work without him…not realizing how true my words really were. Not ever imagining that he would be taken from us in such a sudden and tragic way.
I can’t bring myself to read any of his latest e-mails to me, as the little SharePoint profile picture of him pops up in the corner of the message and I can’t bear to see that right now. I can’t believe that I won’t see him tomorrow. Or joke about his foo-foo drinks next week…or plan where we’re going to go out to eat while in Orlando next month. I can’t imagine that he won’t be there for me as I go through the rest of my career and hope to continue to improve myself and advance myself. I’m so sad he won’t be there for me to call up when I’m frustrated or confused, or both. I have no doubt that my frequent calls caused him to roll his eyes a time or too…but he was always good to me. And good for me. I am better at my job because of him. And my job will never be the same without him.
I realize I am being selfish in my grief…not even able to comprehend the magnitude of sadness his family and close friends must feel. He was my ally for sure – but he was also a son, a father, a husband and friend. He touched many lives, I’m sure of it. He had a lasting impact on me – that is hitting me profoundly today. I’m sure he had no idea how much I looked up to him…how much I truly, truly appreciated him – though I tried often to say and show it. He was one of a kind. One in a million in so many ways – and the void left in his absence will be immense. He will be missed and mourned by so many.
While I always appreciate knowing that my friends and family read this blog and support me and Matt – keeping us in your prayers…I ask that as you read this, you say a quick prayer for those who loved my friend Terry. He was more than just a coworker to me and I will miss him greatly, but I realize that he meant much more to so many. While I sit here trying to process my own grief, I simply cannot imagine theirs.