Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In Memory

For the last two years I have been blessed with a wonderful manager at work. He was intelligent and hard working, and he was a man of integrity. He challenged me to step out of my comfort zone - to tackle big projects, to apply to grad school, to speak up for myself - and always had an encouraging word when things got tough. He was also charming, funny, and most importantly, knew when to laugh at himself. He was my mentor; he was my friend.

In March he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. In spite of facing a bleak prognosis, he was most concerned with how his absence was going to affect the team's workload. He took a few days off after the initial diagnosis to undergo surgery and then was back at work for a few days before being forced to take a leave of absence due to the ravaging effects of the aggressive chemo treatment.

Here is an exerpt from our electronic conversation on his last day of work:

Him: Alright, don't let this swell your head, but among all people you impress me the most in how you rise to the occasion. You have taken up much of my slack single-handedly and done so with grace and humor. This is in addition to working your butt off outside of [work] to get your degree. I am truly impressed and feel quite fortunate to have you on the team and have made [dept director] aware, though she already seemed to be aware. I will forever be truly grateful and hope you haven't grown to despise me or the job before I get back.

Me: head swelling in 3, 2, 1...

Him: I do mean it in all sincerity.

Me: Well thanks, I appreciate that. I hope you know that you are one of my very favorite people here and a main reason why I like this job. I have learned so much from working with you. If I handle things with grace and humor, it's because I've learned how to do it from watching you. You are not only my supervisor and mentor but also my friend. But there is no way I am capable of filling your shoes, so you need to hurry up and get better before this place burns down without you.

Him: head swelling in 3, 2, 1...

I attended his funeral last week - 7 short weeks after his diagnosis. The service was filled with lots of tears for a life too short but mixed with smiles and laughter over shared stories of how this man touched so many lives in one way or another.

Work is not the same for me these days. Life goes on, of course, as it should, and I am trying to honor his memory by handling things with grace and humor. But I often find myself listening for one of his trademark remarks: "Can I get a whoop whoop!" was a favorite of his on good days or "Son of a biscuit!" when things weren't going so smoothly.

Rest in peace, Carl. You are missed.


Liz and Chad said...

I know how much you're missing him -- I'm so sorry for your loss.

sil said...

sorry for the loss! i think you are doing a great job of honoring his memory, and i think that's the best thing you can do.

Pickles and Dimes said...

I'm so sorry. Carl sounded like a wonderful man and the kind of person one could only hope to have the pleasure of working for.

Pancreatic cancer is such a fast-acting, awful cancer. My uncle was diagnosed with it less than a month ago, and the doctor is basically telling him to take a vacation and say his goodbyes.

I think Carl would've loved your tribute to him. (And the thought of him saying, "Son of a biscuit!" makes me laugh.)

Nikki said...

Awwwww I'm sorry sweeting. Hang in there. Keep making him proud.

teg said...

So sorry for your loss - trust me - I truly understand your pain.
Glad you had the opportunity to work with/for someone who allowed you to feel pride in your work.

artemisia said...

I am so sorry. It is such a blessing to have good people at work. Work is such a big part of our lives, after all.

Thinking of you.

RMD said...

That was beautiful - I'm so glad you were both able to touch one another like that.