A co-worker I barely knew died yesterday evening.
She was only 39 years old. She had several children, one of whom was a toddler.
Word reached the office shortly after eight AM, when her eldest son called to break the news.
The handful of us who were there when the word came in, just stood around slack-jawed and stunned. No one ever expects someone so young to just expire at such an early stage of the game.
As the office filled up with the nine-o-clock-crowd, you could see more folks with that odd look on their faces - as if they'd been punched in the gut and then had a bucket of ice-water thrown on their heads.
I've never seen so many people crying, or hugging, or just standing around glassy-eyed as they tried to digest the news that someone they'd been speaking to the day before was suddenly erased from existence.
Some people just threw themselves into meaningless paperwork projects to dull the pain, others sat at their desks staring blankly,while still others took solace in forming small groups to talk the whole thing out.
Later in the morning, everyone sat in the large conference room for a sort of impromptu Quaker style memorial service; people sharing memories of the departed. Some of the stories were heart-felt, some funny, and some poignant.
Me? I sat there somewhat empty, not sure what I was feeling . Like I said, I barely knew this poor woman. And yet, when I heard people speak, and heard voices cracking in emotion, I was moved. When I looked around the room and saw the familiar faces of folks I see day in and day out, contorted in mourning, I felt my heart breaking.
It was then I realized that this odd group of folks I work with, this mix of proud, foolish, energetic, lazy, back-stabbing, earnest, easy going, up tight humans who make up my work place suddenly seemed, for a brief twenty minutes or so, united in grief. And as horrible as that grief might be; I realized that all of us, every single person in that room, was family. And today that family got together to mourn the death of one of their own.