My coworker’s father died suddenly two weeks ago. It wasn’t a suicide and there were no signs that he was sick. She returned to the office earlier this week after taking those two weeks to put her beloved father’s affairs in order.
She was new to the job, so it was hard to for me to gauge how she would want her new coworkers—who were practically strangers— to relate to her in her time of grief. But the absent look in her eyes and the stuttered way of her walk let me know that she would appreciate any comfort that any kind soul could offer.
We took a long lunch and talked about how she was processing this loss along with what I later found out were two more devastations— the loss of her grandfather earlier this year and the loss of her mother to cancer, just three years ago.
The gist of the conversation was this: “It ain’t easy. Sometimes, I can’t even take it day by day. I have to take it minute by minute.”
I could (almost) relate. Through the family rumor grapevine, which oddly enough is pretty accurate, it was recently confirmed this week that my estranged father is at the beginning stages of Parkinson’s disease. Even though my feelings for my father are strongly ambivalent, I couldn’t help but feel sad that Death could take whatever little I had of him from me sooner rather than later.
As she spoke, I was listened to give support. As she spoke, I was also listened to prepare myself for my father’s decline.
“You don’t ever see a U-haul behind a hearse,” she said after taking a sip of her soda. That brought me chills. She was right. Death is the ultimate equalizer. The rich can’t take a nary of their floss and bling with them to the grave. It is important that you live the life that you want now, because death can’t be undone.
Even though she can take of herself financially, she admitted how disappointed and frustrated she was with the fact that her father hadn’t updated his investments and pension paperwork to reflect her as a beneficiary. She knows that it was ignorance, not malice,that gave him the impression that the job would take of the details and that he would have plenty of time to address any errors. “I tell all of my friends now to make sure that this does not happen to them, especially my friends with kids.”
By the time we were back out our desks, it was clear, though unspoken, that we would not be getting any work done for the rest of the afternoon. “You know, the funny thing about my dad’s death was that he was not the only one that died,” she said in whispers.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“What I mean is that the person that I was before he died and the person that I am now not the same. That person that was me died when he died. I am a new and different person now.”
“I hear you.” I said nervously wondering what my father might be doing in that moment.The gist of the conversation was this: “It ain’t easy. Sometimes, I can’t even take it day by day. I have to take it minute by minute.” Click To Tweet