Reflecting on life, death, and what matters
I was strolling into the office liesurely one morning this week, when one of my co-workers saw me in the hallway and motioned me to hurry because I was apparently late for a meeting. I didn’t realize an invite for an early morning meeting was sent out the night before, around 10:33PM, which I was not able to see or accept.
Coming in to my director’s office, I see most of my co-workers already there, and my boss’ boss. We were just waiting for one more person who I assume didn’t check emails at 10PM either. I was thinking this must be another serious deployment issue, or a system meltdown. All I was thinking of was .. “are we in trouble .. again?“. Last year had been rough with all the work, deadlines, and flurry of activities. December was especially rough, trying to push for a deployment before everyone went away for holidays.
As my last team member came in, my director started speaking .. and I can see her face redden. I can clearly remember her saying ..
“Kevin Tu passed away yesterday morning .. “
.. and I remember nothing else…
What did she say? I can’t have heard that right. I can feel my eyes burning up. I didn’t work with Kevin for a long time, but worked long enough to care about this person, and to feel a very deep sadness.. and denial.
Yeah I can’t have heard right. I was just bugging him about accounts we needed to create and accounts we needed to audit. He was just telling me what he did on his “staycations”. I was just at his cubicle promoting why “neighbor times” are good. We have so much work that sometimes I don’t realize time just flew by. Before I realize it it’s already 3 or 4PM. Whenever this happens, I get up and go to my neighbor cubicles, and ask how they’re doing and getting them to take a 2 minute break from staring at their computers. He was just making fun of me because I was so fast in responding to freebie emails from our local tech mailing list. An email goes around about stuff that will be thrown out – old printers, projectors etc – and I managed to snag a couple even before he saw the email.
I am feeling guilty too. When he started missing work, I should have asked around about what’s happening. But I’m the type of person who doesn’t pry. I think that if I needed to know it, or if they wanted to share the information, people will volunteer the information. If not, I don’t pry about it because it’s most likely none of my business. And I want to give people that kind of privacy. I realize maybe I have done this to a fault. I *should* have asked how he was doing and why he was missing at work. I *should* have never assumed that he was just on vacation. Had I asked, and had I known, the least I could have done was get some of my other co-workers together to visit him.
And now it’s too late. Too late to have helped him in all those account creations. Too late to bug him about how fast he goes up 5 flights of stairs. Too late to have asked why he missed days at work. Too late to have been considered a friend. But it does not erase the fact that he has touched many lives, including mine, and I will always be grateful I’ve been given the chance to know him albeit very brief.
Kevin’s death can’t help but put things in perspective. I can’t help but think about my own life and how I am choosing to live it. Is it enough? Am I doing things that matter? Am I making the most of my life, am I making the impact I am hoping to make, am I spending my time with people I care about? I’ve recently come across Joe Webb‘s article “I am choosing to cheat” and I can’t help but ask myself a lot of questions. A lot of hard questions. What matters to me, and with my limited time, am I giving enough time to the people that matter most to me? Do they know they matter to me? Have I told them? Have I shown them?
I don’t think I will ever be answer all of these questions that are going through my mind right now. But maybe that’s just part of life’s wonders.
So .. I guess this is life. As I grow older, I experience and appreciate better this adventure called life. There are ups and downs. Good and bad. Achievements and failures. Joy and pain. There’s confusion, fear, regret, bliss. And there’s loss. And healing. And hope.
A memorial page has been set up in Kevin’s memory. Please consider donating.