Managing Death at Work
I’m in a bit of a surreal state right now: Brian, the beloved husband of my dear friend Lisa, passed away in his sleep Saturday morning from an unexpected and shocking heart attack at the too-young age of 44, a day after Lisa and Brian’s 15th wedding anniversary. My son Noah is buds with their sons Charlie and Timmy. I’m not quite grasping that he’s gone. I spent yesterday and today calling Lisa’s extended circles of friends and colleagues to share this very sad news, the minimum mitzvah I can offer at the moment, aside from urging you to love the ones you’re with, every day, like Brian and Lisa did.
Brian totally rocked. In additional to being a wonderful husband and father (we all attend the same church, which is how we met), he was a Senior / LEED Mechanical Engineer with a great professional reputation, reinforced by his calm, direct and almost Buddha-like presence. Which served him and our church well as a member of our Trust Committee. He also reminded me of my Grandaddy Nat of beloved memory: Brian could do all of his own electrical, plumbing and carpentry work. He knew how to run natural gas lines, which allowed him to completely renovate their kitchen and bathroom. Brian also cooked up biofuel to use in the family diesel cars. He had been spending the summer putting new siding on the family house. He has just taken Charlie and Tim on our church camp-out in Cooperstown, and then journeyed with them to use their season tickets at Six Flags in New Jersey. Lisa had given him a brand new toilet last Christmas, in anticipation of his next project to renovate the second-floor attic space. Our collective handyfolk are discussing how they will complete Brian’s projects for him.
One of the few beacons during this tragic weekend was the response from Brian’s manager to the news of Brian’s unexpected death. The manager, extremely emotional himself, told Lisa on Saturday that Brian was highly respected at their company, and that their customers specifically asked to work with Brian. A heartfelt, authentic and welcome message for Lisa in the midst of her grief, demonstrating how as Brian’s manager, that he truly saw him and his gifts, and lifted them up. Well done.