3 years ago I very suddenly lost a coworker. And while I was sad - I wasn't this sad. It feels like a nightmare. I've been having those very regularly for the past 3 weeks or so anyway - so this doesn't help.
Sunday morning I stood after church trying to remember if there was anything in particular I was supposed to do or anyone I was supposed to talk too. My friend JC, who I also work with, came up. "Hey Miriam?" he said tentatively. I smiled and thought his behavior was a bit odd. Sure he'll talk to me about stuff - but just his mannerisms were odd. He was very deliberate in what he said. "Did you...uh...did you happen to hear that Bruce Matthews died?" I laughed.
The absurdity of it all! Bruce? Dead? Surely not. He was a youngish fit guy. He wasn't sick. I had just seen him on Friday at a family event for work. I chatted with his wife, who didn't recognize me (it had been a couple years - I've lost a lot of weight).
"Well," JC continued, "I read an article about a guy who died while kite boarding. His name was mentioned in the comments."
I pursed my lips. "He did like water sports. I wouldn't be entirely surprised if this was something he would do. But surely not...I mean, there is probably more than one in town!"
JC looked doubtful but replied "Yeah, I hope you are right."
My manager also goes to my church. I pointed JC to him saying he would definitely know - and I planned on asking my manager to verify. I wanted to know.
It didn't take long for my manager, JH, to find me. He had a question for me, which I thoughtfully answered. We discussed that awhile, and then I asked him. "JC mentioned that Bruce may have died. Do you know anything?" JH's face immediately fell and a somberness overtook the conversation. "Yeah...yeah it is true. I didn't mention it sooner because I knew you worked with him closely. I didn't want to spoil church."
The reality of it really didn't sink in. It was true I had worked with Bruce many times over the years. When I first went back to the test team in 2005, he was my project lead. I worked for him while I was pregnant. When I returned from maternity leave, I worked with him until he left the department to take a manager position in another department. I worked with him again from 2008-2010 when we worked on one of the worst projects ever. He was in charge of the developers and I was in charge of the testers. While I hated that project, we made the best of it. I had great respect for him. He was a Christian and it showed. Oh how it showed. I never specifically asked because I didn't have too. The love of Jesus came through him in what can only be described as a respective manner. What I mean is - sometimes sharing Jesus in the work place can be tricky. There is a dotted line there where it turns into "harassment" and you end up fired. But Bruce did it without batting an eye. It was a gift. For Bruce, it was as simple as the light being turned on. You can see in the room, so obviously there was a light. You didn't have to SEE the light itself to know it was there.
I remember one day specifically when I made a contractor cry. It was purely an accident. I have a tendency to be...straight forward. And she was really not picking things up very well. Bruce took me aside and helped me understand that I needed to phrase thing a bit differently sometimes. He really did try to work with me on my people skills. While I am still not great with people, I'm better because of him.
Bruce also started the "rumor" about me being mean. It was light hearted and joking and I think actually helped people understand me a bit better. This reputation follows me around still.
And then there was the time he invited the whole team over to his house for a BBQ. He lived on a lake, had a love of water and we went tubing. It was a totally awesome time. (I actually missed a second one a year or so later and was sad about that.)
His wife is absolutely wonderful. She knows how to make everyone feel like they have known her for years and they are her best friend. She is definitely an extrovert - which in my world of introverts is something memorable. One time I invited for her over for some Bunko with some other gals from work. She had no problems walking into a room full of strangers and making herself at home. (Not a skill I have...)
Their youngest daughter is just days apart in age from Peter. Their son has a genetic muscle disorder that has caused him problem doing everything from eating to walking. They have poured their lives into their children - as one would expect of a parent. The best part is these kids are adopted.
This is a good family - in all that good means. They had so much to give, that it was just inspiring.
We went home and I thought about the kids and his wife all the way home. What must they be going through? The shock - I mean...I'm shocked. Can you imagine how SHE must feel? Or how confused the kids must be? Peter understands death to a certain extent - but I'm not sure he would understand the death of someone so close to him.
As soon as we walked in the door I looked up articles to see if I could see what happened for myself. I then looked up kite boarding. It looked harmless enough from the description. But in the news story, a gust of wind had lifted Bruce into the air and then dropped him back down. He was pulled into a boat and CPR was administered, but he died at the scene.
I could see how it wasn't so harmless.
The family had been spending a day at the lake. I have no idea if the kids saw it - and I hope they didn't. Talk about images haunting them.
I've been praying continually (daily isn't enough) for this family. I've been praying that the Lord bring peace and healing to Laura as she deals with all the stuff - and eventually healing after the heart-wrench of losing a spouse. I have prayed for the kids - that the Lord help them to know that Bruce is now with Him. And that God send people into their lives to lift them up, encourage them, and help them. That He brings them wisdom as the work to rebuild their lives after this disaster.
It is about all I can do at this point. I don't want to become part of a swarm. I want to help - but sometimes helping is standing back. I can stand back and pray - powerful, meaningful, heartfelt prayers for this family. And I have confidence it will make a difference in their lives - because whenever I pray it always does.
And my prayers won't stop this week after the fuss and muss of it all dies down. There has been a genuine burden for this family placed on my heart. I don't make this stuff up. Honestly? I'm one of the most forgetful prayer warriors ever. I typically pray for the things God directs me too. He reminds me, prompts me, tells me what it is I need to pray about.
I took a nap Sunday afternoon. I've had a lot of nightmares lately - pretty much every time I close my eyes. Some of them have been hard to swallow (like when I dreamed Ruth drowned) and some have been more benign (like the war that plagued me last week in my sleep). Sunday I woke up from my nap and I knew there was something...something important that I needed to remember. And I remembered about Bruce. I had to stop and remember if it was a dream or if it was real. And when I remembered it was real the reality of it all started over again. And again - I thought about his wife and I prayed for her. I can't even fathom the emotions and the shock of it all setting in for her.
Monday I thought about staying home from work. I don't particularly care for people to see me cry. In fact, I never admit to it. It's allergies, or a piece of dust...never because I'm crying.
I carpool. I had decided I wasn't going to talk about it in the carpool because I didn't want to cry. 7 minutes in and I ended up saying something that made me cry. Oops. It was going to be a long day.
I hid in my cube most of the day. That was the safest place for me. However, at some point I became hungry. It happens. So I headed to the break-room with an oatmeal packet to get a cup and some hot water. A friend who also worked closely with Bruce on the project from heck was standing just outside. I was very careful to not make eye contact - simple as she was speaking to someone else.
AMB then walked in and said "Hello my dear! So - tell me why you haven't been running?" (She knows from DailyMile. I post all my runs there.) I just looked at her and burst into tears. Then SHE burst into tears and we had CryFest 2012. "I'm so sorry!" I said. I'm not one for emotional outbursts! We got our tears out and said we were going to miss him. And that cry was probably the most therapeutic of the day. And it has to be one of the strangest experiences of my life. We are engineers people...and there is no crying in engineering!
I allowed myself to wallow yesterday. Everyone should get one day of wallowing. But now, I must pick myself up. I've always felt the Israelites were wise with their periods for mourning. Will there be saddness later? Sure. Bruce will be missed terribly. He was a fun loving, good natured guy. I'm always skeptical when people talk about how nice or good someone is after they pass away. Human nature has a tendency to idealize memories. But in this case, if you did not have the privilege of knowing Bruce then you truly missed out on knowing an amazing person.