Saturday, March 3, 2012

Don’t Be a Stranger

Medical issues and death are on my mind way too much this week. I’m having more tests done Monday on my own med issue because they still can’t determine the cause. I remain optimistic that they will and that they’ll find a suitable treatment. Meanwhile I have to at least think about what to do if they don’t.

So in the middle of that crap, a former co-worker dies. Sadly I had not been touch with him for more than two years. We had become pretty good work friends and we each learned from each other. He lost his job a few years ago, not for anything specific, mostly because they company wanted to make a change. I’ll spare you my opinion on that. The last time I saw him in person was the next day, when he came to gather personal items from his desk. I had no contact with him for another year or two. Then he called me to ask for some advice about something and to say he was still unemployed and he and his family were totally broke and moving halfway across the country to a rent-free house being offered by a family member.

Many times during the two years since that conversation I thought of calling or emailing him. People would often ask me what he was up to, assuming I knew. I kept putting off making contact and, well, he didn’t reach out to me either. I think his reluctance related to some embarrassment about his situation. Mine was that I just didn’t know what to say.

And all of that is so ridiculous.

I understand how difficult it is to ask for help or to admit that things are not going well. We all get so busy in our own spheres that we don’t allow time to help other people. That is so wrong. I am as guilty as anyone for that and I have often promised to change that behavior. Yet once again I did not.

The rumor about his death started Tuesday. I contacted a mutual friend to see if she had heard anything and she was devastated at the possibility. She had also just received a mysterious email from the friend’s wife and the uncertainty grew. Wednesday night I got confirmation that indeed the rumor was true; he died of a heart attack at the way-too-young age of 66.

He had health problems but I can’t help but wonder if he just gave up. Would things have been any better if old friends and co-workers kept in touch? It’s hard to say. It is a challenge to not place at least a little blame on myself and others.

The phrase “don’t be a stranger” is synonymous with the idea of keeping in touch. No matter how busy we get, we should try to keep in touch with friends who might need our support. Many of the people who matter most to me text me daily to ask about my situation. I have no words to describe how much that means to me and the positive impact it has on me. I do the same but maybe not enough.

I say all this to offer this to you (and me) as a learning experience. When a friend needs you, don’t be a stranger.

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