Thursday, May 17, 2012

There's Nothing Safe About This Life

I'm a bit hesitant to write this post, because the main story is not mine to tell, and believe me, I know it is not about me at all. But I think I need to write the post, so here goes.

On Monday, I found out that one of my colleagues had died over the weekend. I do not know many more details, and if I did, I would not feel it was right to share them here. All I'll say is that his death was completely unexpected and was from a medical cause, not trauma. And he was not old. I am not sure I can say "he was young." I want to, because he was only a year or two older than me. But that makes him at least a decade older than the colleagues we truly consider young- I will be 40 at the end of the month. We're not the kids anymore. The bands whose concerts we saw in our youth are playing the casino circuit now. (Literally- I heard an ad for Howard Jones at Sycuan Casino on my way home today. Howard Jones was the first performer I ever saw in concert.)

At least at this job, I am not in charge of IT. A colleague died suddenly at my last job, too. In that case, the authorities were looking for a piece of information they thought might be in her email, and I, as the senior person in the IT department, had to read through her email looking for it. That was probably the hardest day in my professional life.

I didn't know the man who died last weekend well, but I had worked with him on a few things, and obviously a death like this is tragic whether you know the person well or not. There are people at the company who did know him very well, and had known him for years- it is the nature of the San Diego biotech community to find yourself working with the same people at multiple companies. So the atmosphere at work is somber, and yet weirdly unchanged, as we all go about our jobs. I'm sure there will be some sort of memorial once we hear more from the family, and judging from my experience the last time, that will be cathartic.

But in the meantime, everyone is dealing with it on their own, in their own way. I've been distracting myself with work, which is easy to do, since I'm just back from vacation and therefore behind. And I've been hugging my kids a little harder when I pick them up at the end of the day, and snuggling them a little longer at bedtime.  What else can I do, really?

The title of this post is from this song:

It is not one of my favorite Neil Finn songs, but the sentiment in the chorus is spot on, and explains why there is more than a little bit of "live for the moment" in my own personal philosophy.


  1. I'm sorry about what happened to your colleague. My line manager, who wasn't even 40 yet I think, died of brain tumor for a year ago. It happened so fast. It really made me think that anything can happen, anytime, we can't predict it, it's no use worrying about it, just live every moment.

  2. Gawd. Mortality is everywhere. My high school class is corresponding on Facebook these days (leading up to our 20th reunion this summer) and there's been a long exchange of information about the many classmates who have passed away. A dozen people -- almost all of them men. Makes it darn hard to feel like we are still young (we aren't) and even harder to feel like anything is permanent (it's not).

  3. how tragic, at your age mortality is no longer an abstraction. That sucks!

  4. I'm really sorry for your loss. It's perfectly normal to feel a bit of shock and denial that death also sometimes happens to folks our age. Hang in there.

  5. Zenmoo12:39 AM

    I know what you mean - I've learnt that there is nothing safe in this life a few times. The one that really rocked my world was a close colleagues' death from leukaemia at age 35 (I was 30). That's why my priorities in life are family, holidays and a job I enjoy (in that order). Sure, we plan like we're going to be here until old & grey - superannuation savings, paying down our mortgage etc, but we live to be without regrets (we have life insurance to cover our debts!). So, next year, when we move to New Zealand & we will probably go backwards in our savings due to significantly less income & an unfavourable exchange rate & moving expenses (especially given we're planning a trip to Japan at Christmas) - we're really ok with that. The payoff will be time with my husband's family (in both places, 4 of his 5 siblings + his parents are also going to Japan!). And you never know how much time you'll have with anyone. Things can go to shit in an instant, so when opportunities to do cool stuff with people we love come up - we just work out how to make it happen.


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