My coworker died this weekend.
It was the usual Monday morning. I was grumbling into work to my desk. I had brought in my new silver tinsel Christmas tree- a little desktop number- and a small box of pastel ornaments. As I checked e-mail, I turned on Pandora to the Frank Sinatra Christmas channel and hummed away. I was alone in the cubicle farm, one of my favorite parts of a quiet morning. I was dumping the plastic Christmas-tree-to-be out on my desk when my coworker texted me. “Did you hear about ___ ?”
I briefly thought the worst but quickly blocked it from my mind. “No” I texted back, “what?”
“He died this weekend.”
The silence, despite the merry music, was deafening.
No, I didn’t know him that well. He was the IT guy. He helped set up my new computer in my office. He helped me when the programs weren’t going right. I remember him as upbeat and friendly, always willing to come over and lend a helping hand. He was an older man, but that didn’t stop him from crawling on the floor to reach some forgotten cable socket or plug beneath a desk.
It was apparently a heart attack.
I found out he left behind a wife and son, and was in the military for two decades. You learn a lot about a person after they are gone. I thought about him intermittently through the day. I haven’t had a lot of experience with death, and don’t believe I handle it particularly well. Although I suppose no one does. I typically try to put it away in a back crevice of my mind, where it will then begin to slowly unfold like a heating popcorn bag and allow me to process the event one kernel at a time.
It’s now the afternoon and I am looking forward to going home to my husband and dogs, and I am thinking about him again. Lately I’ve been working on reframing my outlook on my day to day life, and redefining what counts as important. This most recent event has brought a new definition to the word “reframing”.
So often I tend to focus on the negatives, the things that I don’t have, the things that aren’t going right, the things that might go wrong, the dusty shelves, and the long work days. Do you do this, too? Although I know the things I should be focusing on, it is frequently hard to do so. I read somewhere that humans are more hard-wired to focus on the bad; some kind of evolutionary self-protection measure.
Today, his passing forced me to focus on the good. The important things. Family, being able to visit family during the holidays, my silly silver tree that brings me joy, the food on the table, the clothes I have to keep me warm, the roof over my head, my tribe of girlfriends, my job that provides for my family, my talents, my face, my health, my dogs, my value system. There are many things to be thankful for, many things that not everyone has on a day-to-day basis, if they have them at all.
Death is many things. It is not usually pretty or nice. If death is one thing, is it something that makes you think.
They always say to be grateful during the holidays, to spend it with loved ones and to slow down and enjoy it. He changed this holiday. This holiday, I will take the old adages to heart. This holiday, I will be grateful.
Rest in peace, _____, and thank you for the reminder.