Heart

Good Grief.

My posts have become far more sporadic, and as my priorities change, I’m finding that my lifestyle no longer allows for polished personal narratives. I’m getting in the way of my writing by constantly skirting a draft because of the time required to write something substantial, and so I’m exploring different ways to meet my needs—one being my natural desire to regularly produce meaningful content.

So I’m trying to cozy up to a style that champions stream-of-consciousness and real-time experiences to improve my frequency.

Today, I need this.

One year ago, the president of our firm (a colleague and dear friend of mine), died from pancreatic cancer. Peter was 59 years old.

Death arrived less than five weeks following his diagnosis—too quick to process or prepare for the outcome. Grief came just as fast.

During that exceptionally difficult time, company leadership shouldered the task of keeping us informed and supported as we navigated the news together. To this day, their genuine concern for our well-being speaks volumes of the company culture they’ve established during their tenure.

Their sympathy and understanding allowed all of us to cope privately in a very public space. Sadness descended upon our office, but love was abundant.

We held onto each other in a way I can’t describe.

I knew Peter passed when several text messages from frantic colleagues poured into my inbox. His wife, Linda, confirmed his death via email to our staff the next evening. I read her words sobbing in a parking lot with my head pressed against my steering wheel.

It was the first time I’d experienced real loss.

I met Peter two years prior when I arrived at our firm as a senior designer. I liked him immediately for his volume and colorful language—the man, among other great qualities, was extremely loud. I will not forget his laugh.

But I loved him for his quieter moments. Like his dedication to greeting every employee, every morning. And the way he bit his tongue in concentration as he fumbled through dance class. And the ferocity with which he loved his family. His ability (and desire) to connect with each of us was his most endearing quality.

Our professional relationship was peppered with moments of paternal affection. I suspect, in some ways, I reminded him of his daughter.

During a work function that included significant others, Peter made a point to introduce himself to my new boyfriend (now husband) and gently remind him that, should he trample my feelings in any way, he’d have Peter and the rest of the company to answer to.

I frequently poked him about his remarkable ineptitude with technology. He’d retort with friendly digs at the shoe collection displayed in my cubicle. But despite our ages, we found middle ground with music, cussing, and an affinity for quality.

He believed in my cause and supported my missions.

When Peter died, our team rallied to assist with funeral arrangements. We salved our grief by being useful. We created collateral, built slideshows, assembled playlists, and organized venues. We ran the show. It was, in every sense, emotionally draining.

When the day finally arrived to celebrate his life, I found myself in the parking lot of the funeral home simultaneously choking back sobs and Zingerman’s lemon pound cake at the conclusion of the service. I continued to cry for weeks.

And I’m still crying.

I’ve remembered Peter every day for the last year, hoping that my memories are enough to keep him here as long as we should’ve had him. I continue to poke him through stories. I continue to honor him through work. I continue to love him through Linda.

I’m lucky to have known him the way I did.

Before he died, he told me I deserved a seat at the table. In many ways, I’ve already taken a chair.

This year I’ve found myself standing at the helm of a $1.2 million project, managing the outreach of a statewide campaign, shoulder-to-shoulder with our CEO—a position otherwise reserved for Peter, but somehow fell to me.

And I wish, every day, that he could witness my accomplishments in his place. Because I know he’d be so proud.

As I navigate new spaces and expand my role, I’m trying, with everything I have, to acknowledge his confidence in my abilities.

I want him to know that I heard him.

I want good to come from this grief.

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