4.22.2009

R.I.P., Don

Tonight I am hearing in my mind the sounds of Tavener: his "Funeral Ikos" and "Song for Athene." All the while, I am processing the unexpected passing of a friend and coworker, wondering what it was that God had in His plan to call him home so soon.

I have always believed that God brings people into our lives for specific reasons. Some are meant to be our friends, others our mentors, and some perhaps even our enemies. Some are short-term, others with you for life no matter where you end up. I had only known Don for less than 2 months yet I wonder what impact his friendship will have had on my life, and it may be months or years before I ever know.

We met at the good ol' IRS. We were in the same training class, and part of a group that became friends during breaks and lunch, sharing a common sense of humor about the whole situation. Later, he and I were assigned to the same unit, where two things in common really bonded us: our ability to do our jobs very well, and our desire to do our jobs well -- and for the whole unit to succeed. We were both selected to train as the back-up work leaders, and were on our way to earning incentive pay -- bonuses recognizing our high production and quality ratings. We sought each other out to kvetch about problems in the unit, or to share a good joke or tidbit of internal gossip, or just to have a moment with someone who both understood and cared. In a very short acquaintance, we had developed our own way of communicating; often just a look was all that was needed to say all that needed to be said.

Don was a very intense person. You couldn't help but notice him. He had a very vibrant personality and a wicked sense of humor. He was incredibly passionate about what he did in life, even down to the menial things. This passion and intensity to make everything right was what cost him his job as a sheriff's deputy (don't question authority even if your suggestions are the right thing to do), and was what was driving him to eventually go back to school to become an educator. He was working two jobs to make the ends meet while his wife went to med school, even sacrificing sleep to make sure his two kids (ages 3 & 1) had time with Dad. Last Friday, while most of us were looking forward to our days off so we could sleep or do mundane errands, he was so excited for our day off because he would be taking the kids to the zoo.

What we know so far is that he went home to take a nap between jobs and never woke up. He was in his late 20s, a former high school and college track star still in excellent health. Tonight and for a while to come, I will mourn the loss of a friend. All night I struggled with not seeing him at his desk, and realizing that when I thought, "oh, I have to tell Don this" it was in vain because I will not talk to him again on this earth. Many of my coworkers have surprised me both by noticing that Don and I had become close and through their expressions of care and concern for me. I will always be grateful for our mutual friend and work leader Curtis, who was considerate and thoughtful enough to tell me personally rather than wait for me to find out in the meeting like everyone else. That gesture has meant so much to me, a small bright spot in a very dark night.

Today I mourn the loss of a friend, and pray for his wife and two young children. I can only begin to imagine the depths of their grief. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, Don. You are missed.