Once upon a time there was a man. And then, suddenly there wasn't.
A year ago today was the most devastating day I had over the past couple of years. I'd returned to work after two days out because the local garage had been wrong about what was amiss with my stupid car, and found that the project I'd been working on had completed in my absence and no one had told me. No matter, I was given Mike's table for the day because he was out sick.
It had been a pretty nice day for the most part, and I guess the memory of that day will remain bittersweet given I met a new coworker that day that I'm now fond of. But at three a shaken Portia came over to me and pulled me aside. She told me that she'd just gotten the worst news: Mike wasn't out sick like everyone thought. Instead, he'd been killed in a car wreck on the way to work, seven hours earlier.
I spent the next seventeen hours hoping that it had all been a horrible misunderstanding, and it hadn't been our Mike. This wasn't so far-fetched, there had been a case of mistaken identity before and that coworker is still alive and kicking. The next morning they gathered us up and broke the news to people who hadn't heard it already, and shattered the illusions of those of us who had. The day after he died is only the second time I've ever cried at work (well, discounting a time when I'd been injured while moving furniture and my partner mistepped on the stairs.).
Mike was a really nice man, but it took most people a while to know this. A long time ago, years before he died, someone once said that he was more teddy bear than grizzly when you got to know him, and I think that’s really apt. He was big and bearded, and often wore an unconscious scowl. A person might take one look at him and have easily pictured him as a bouncer, lumberjack, or riding a Harley. But when he laughed… One day I turned to him and said in exasperation, "Mike! This is the worst Monday since last Monday!" and he laughed his butt off. He had a great laugh. Portia and I, and a few other people, were forever telling people that he wasn't as stern as he seemed, and that he had a great sense of humor.
Despite some people being kind of scared of him, he had a lot of fans. Portia and I both saw him as like a favorite uncle, because he was our parents' ages, but didn't have a "dad" feeling about him. There were other people who took his death hard, though, ones closer to his age as well. Probably those of us who ate lunch with him every day took his death the hardest.
It’s funny how time allows you to get over things. When he died, and when my mentor Lil died three years earlier, it felt like it would always hurt to think of them (of the people who I’ve known and lost, these are the ones outside my own family that I’ve grieved the most) but now I can think of both without tearing up. Thank God for small favors.
"There are things in my life I can't control/I feel the chaos around me, a thing I don't try to deny/I'd better learn to accept that there's a part of my life that will go away" - Phoenix, If I Ever Feel Better