My coworker John died this week.
It’s a terrible event, all the more terrible because I don’t understand. I don’t understand what happened, I don’t understand why he died, I don’t understand anything that’s happening.
I just joined this team a couple months ago. I didn’t know much about John’s life, but I did know that he was a warm, genuine person. He smiled often and got irritated seldom. He was always interested to learn more about people, and never used those personal facts to talk about himself, like many of us do. He loved to tease his friends, because he knew that gentle teasing was a way to tell his friends, “Hey, I know you. I know your quirks and weird tendencies, and I love you for them anyway.” He liked to be teased too, for the same reason.
On my team, we all have different tasks and different areas we report to. I didn’t work with John much, but I liked him a lot. He was the one I turned to to try new foods with me, and to rally everyone to go out together. I didn’t know much about John’s life, but I know he valued harmony with others. He wanted everyone to get along. I liked him so much because he so much wanted all of us to be a team. He was always my ally when I wanted to go to lunch, because he loved to just spend time with his coworkers in a non work context. He liked to be friends with the people he worked with.
I didn’t know John that well, which is why it feels somewhat wrong to be so broken up by his death. He wasn’t a close friend, but he was a part of my day. He sat near me, and I talked to him a lot. I didn’t know him well, but he was a part of my life that’s no longer there.
John was there one day, and then he just…wasn’t. I keep expecting him to show up again. I never got to say goodbye to him, none of us did. I keep thinking that he’s just on vacation, or at a meeting. Because he was there and then he wasn’t, the fact that he’s not anywhere anymore doesn’t feel real. Yet it is.
Not knowing what happened breaks my heart. I want to know what really happened, but I also know that it’s my desire to have facts is just my way of doing something. In times like this, it’s easier to do something than it is to just grieve. It’s easier to organize a memorial, to point fingers, than it is to just be. I’m not good at just being.
John had a lot of empathy for others. I think it’s why I never saw him really get mad – he always considered someone else’s background, point of view when he judged them. And in that way, he never really judged them. I think if he were here now, he would tell me not to get too mad at the people I feel have been grossly insensitive and callous in the wake of his death. He’d maybe say that we don’t know where they’re coming from, maybe they’re stressed, maybe they’re being pressured. He’d help me not be so mad at others, to not be so sad and heartbroken about his death.
I hope that John’s death wasn’t long or painful. I hope he didn’t suffer. I wonder if he knew that he was dying. I hope he knew that he was a good friend. I hope he knew how valuable he was. I hope he knew he was loved, and that he will be missed.
I use #yolo (you only live once) a lot, mostly tongue-in-cheek, to talk about why I ate a whole muffin or didn’t do my laundry. But if there’s anything that I’m striving to learn from this terrible thing, it’s that no matter what your religious beliefs are, we are here on this planet with each other for so little time. We need to enjoy each other, to spend time with each other, to joke around and tease each other. I wish I had done more of that John. I hope he knows he was my friend.
My friend John died this week. I knew John, his quirks and weird tendencies, and I loved him anyway. I’m sad that it took his death to make me realize that.
Bye John. I hope you’re creating harmony, wherever you are.