Monday, June 16, 2008

A very sad goodbye

You're never really prepared to lose anyone, I don't think.

You can know that the person is ill, and getting worse. You can see them getting a little thinner, a little frailer. You can see the pain and the effort it takes to act positive wearing through the smile, hovering constantly in the background.

And at some point the facts are such that you can know intellectually that one of these months, which then becomes one of these weeks, and ultimately becomes days, you are going to have to say goodbye.

But I don't think you can ever fully ready yourself emotionally for the loss of someone dear.

Our friend and colleague was diagnosed with colon cancer just over a year ago. By the time they discovered it, it was Stage IV. If you've not had any experience with this - and I hadn't - there are only four stages.

He was incredibly strong and positive, and he announced the news openly. He was fighting it with everything he had. His large and loving family, with a very supportive wife and sons, were all behind him in the battle.

He had so many friends, including all his colleagues. We have a fairly informal office, and people genuinely and truly become friends. The entire office was rooting for him.

With all this positive energy and modern medecine, you'd ultimately conquer it, wouldn't you?

He was my boss's boss, and even so, I have a few too many stories of a few too many drinks out with them. He was a grown man, older than me and one I fully respected as a colleague and a person, but if you got him in on a drunken scheme, his eyes would light up and he'd rub his hands gleefully; he would run with it. You could fully imagine him as a slightly wicked teenager.

I think this is the best combination of person.

In April, his friends and family organized a team to run in a colon cancer race. We might not have been the fastest or fittest, but I think our team was the largest. It was a beautiful morning, and the cherry blossoms were at their peak. Many of us mostly used it as a social occasion - walking and occasionally running, as the spirit (or the cold) moved us. And there he was, walking and running in the center of the crowd.

Afterwards he and his wife had a huge breakfast catered at our office, which is both large and in an easy location. They were so gracious, so thankful we'd all come out to demonstrate support. At a time when most people could reasonably expect to have things done for him, he was constantly giving.

I'd have to say that generosity was one of his dominant characteristics. His constant strength and grace through his illness serves as an incredible inspiration.

Yesterday he lost his battle with colon cancer. He was 43.

Saying that we are devastated, saying that we will all miss him terribly, saying that we are so sad for his family - none of those begin to cover it.

14 comments:

  1. This made me teary and I don't even know this person, but it gave me an outlet and was so beautifully written. I just learned Friday that a woman I work with, of about the same age, passed away on June 11th. She was a sunny, lovely person with two young children. Her husband teaches art with a friend of my mom's.

    You realize, when these things happen, you have to put aside the little worries that distract us and think bigger LIFE picture more often.

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  2. i'm so sorry for your loss lisa. what a great tribute post to him. you all will be in my thoughts and prayers.

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  3. Oh Lisa, I'm so sorry. It is an enormous loss, to watch someone young, vibrant and determined, lose the battle. There comes a realization at some point in the disease progression, when you are forced to face that, no matter how hard you try, how many medical options are out there and, worst of all, how badly you want that person to bead the odds, sometimes there is nothing else to be done. I went through this with my late husband, and it is horrific. You lose hope and reason. But you also learn to appreciate life and your loved ones more, after having faced it. Go home and hug Nick and tell him how much you cherish him. Hang in there.

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  4. I'm so sorry to hear this story and know the pain of losing those we care about and admire. This is a lovely post, his spirit shines through.

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  5. Boo Boo's Mom - Thank you, Janie. It's so hard to understand, I think. And you are right - it IS a good reminder to focus on LIFE more than the little stuff.

    mrsmac - That is very kind. Thank you.

    Susan - I am so sorry to hear about your late husband. I keep thinking of his wife and wondering how she's coping. I can't even imagine. I will give Nick extra hugs, for sure. It's important for the people you love to know it.

    HKW - I am very glad to hear that. He was an extraordinary person.

    Beach Bum - Thank you. :)

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  6. A wonderful tribute to our dear friend. :)

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  7. I am very sad for your loss. My father is a 3 year survivor of Stage IV mantle cell lymphoma...and not a day goes by that I don't remember that not everyone wins the battle. My deepest condolences...

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  8. That was a lovely tribute to someone I think we all would have benefitted from knowing. Thank you.

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  9. Lisa, I'm sorry for your loss. Cancer is devastating. This is a beautiful post, even if words don't do justice.

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  10. *hugs*... to do you and your coworkers.

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  11. Oh Lisa, I am so sorry.

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  12. He was so young sigh...

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