It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald
I wanted to write last week. I wanted to write about how we treat each other. How we treat strangers. How we, as a culture, expect immediate gratification at the cost of empathy. But something lately has kept me from finding all the words I want to say.
It has been a terrible week nearing the end of a terrible year, but I have been reminded, on the days when I get overwhelmed by it all, that I have a certain resilience about me. That resilience was forced back into play this week by two tragedies in as many days at work.
Having just navigated through the newness of a great loss in my personal life and facing the holiday season for the first time without the most important person in my family, I feel like I'm becoming an expert at grief. It isn't the sort of expertise any of us should have to get comfortable with knowing, but here I sit, no choice but to own it.
The wife of a coworker was hit by a train this week. She's fortunate to be alive, but her life will never be the same. It's one of those tragedies so horrific that it seems unreal.
We weren't yet done with the bad news after hearing about that.
Our company has grown so rapidly that a year ago we split into teams of ten or fewer. On our team we work together, we play together, we go out together, we sit together, we help each other, we learn together, we eat together, we take long rambling walks to coffee shops too far away to make it back to the office in time on lunch breaks together. I trust my team. I love my team. I would do most anything for my team, and that feeling is resoundingly mutual.
My team is like family, and like family, we grieve together.
On Wednesday we learned of the death of one of our own. He was young, healthy and a beautiful, kind soul that was taken far too soon. My team is shattered.
I braved the office on Thursday, not sure if I would make it through the day. When my team lead first saw me, she pulled me into a hug so tight I knew it was meant for him as much as for me.
I know my team will heal together. We may accomplish very little at work for awhile. We may not be found at our table. You'll see us staring blankly at our screens, escaping to conference rooms to watch movies and trying but failing to hold back our tears. We're missing someone important, someone who has been with us all along.
I've chosen to keep working through this, though I'm not sure it could be called "work". I skipped out three hours early on Wednesday night, crawled into bed and gave up on the day. But on Thursday two separate team leads, not my own, pulled me aside to thank me for being present, even if I wasn't getting anything done. "We need you here. You're helping all of us get through this too."
I'm not going to pretend I didn't sit in a pathetic heap of tears and pain when I first heard. I know my patience for being asked an emotionally invasive question I've grown to loathe this year (How are you doing?) is starting to run dangerously thin. I'm terrified of how difficult the memorial service will be.
But in all these things I know of my own strength, that resilience my friends remind me I have. It may be a terrible week and a terrible year, but in all of this tragedy has been some of the greatest moments of my life and relationships. It is in these times that I am reminded my reason for coping. There is so much beauty around us, most especially in the darkest times, that makes the day worth living.