I hope you’re in a happy place.

My coworker died this weekend. The cause is shrouded in mystery, but her teenage son found her dead on Saturday morning, and the speculation is that she killed herself, or mistakenly overdosed on pain medication, or some sort of “accidentally on purpose” scenario. She had a history of high drama and a few illnesses that may or may not have been short term commitment to a facility, or may have been bids for attention. More than that, she was difficult to work with, and not well liked. She could always be counted on to stir up trouble. I know we aren’t supposed to speak ill of the dead, but that’s the truth of the matter. The most common phrase here this week has been, “Wow. I didn’t like her much, but I never wished her dead!” I’m in that camp, too–not feeling very bad, but then feeling awful for not feeling bad. Someone I saw every day for 4 years is dead; I should feel bad.

I think this is the most basic goal I work toward, or want to work toward: when I die, I want people to be sad. I want to leave a hole. This means I need to work to be exceptional, and exceptionally kind, and worthy of being missed. I saw one of those silly Facebook memes last week that has stuck with me: kindness is in your power, even when fondness is not. I probably was less kind to my coworker than I could have been. She irritated me, and I withheld pleasantry from her more than once, in some foolish effort to punish her for being so very high maintenance. I was not my best self around her.

I wish for some happier place in the next world for you, Ms. D. I hope whatever pain and sorrow you had in this life is forgotten, and that your family finds peace in memories of good times with you. I hope your son gets a fair shake in life, despite his complicated childhood and losing you so young. I am going to work on being more kind, even when I am not fond. You deserved that; we all do.

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  1. I had a similar experience, some years ago, and similar feelings. The woman was a thorn in my side for months, and those of us who worked with her would roll our eyes at her continued plays for attention, her imperious behavior, her drama. Then one Friday, as I was packing up my training room to go home, one of the other managers came in, clearly shaken, to say that Cindy had rolled her Jeep on the way home and was killed instantly. We were all shocked, but I know that in small groups, in twos and threes, or with our non-work friends, we admitted we didn’t feel bad. But we did feel bad — for not feeling bad, not missing her, not thinking of her fondly. Was I unkind to her? I don’t think so. But I surely wasn’t my best self. And that is a profound thing that I will try to remember.

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