I remember when I first met her. I was, to say the least, surprised. She applied for a job in my department. In all honesty, she was so seasoned in the industry, and so overqualified. I should have been reporting to her. We poignantly asked – why does someone with such an extensive background want to work this particular position? She flashed her infectious electric smile and simply stated, “I’m looking for the last job I’ll ever have. I’m close to the end of my career, and I want to spend these last years taking the time to enjoy it.”. It was by far, the best and honest answer I heard.
After we hired her, she told me more about her answer. She worked a successful and admirable career in our industry. She left her highly paid position in a very prominent company because she spent so many years working long days and hours. She did it because she loved it, and it was a means to put her children in the educational facilities that she felt they deserved. Her children are grown, her bills have been paid; it’s time to sit back and enjoy life and do the work she loved. Taking a lower position allowed her to have the freedom in doing what she wanted, and not having the amount of responsibility a more senior level position asked of her. Frankly, it was time to take a step back and let someone else grow.
Her answer blew me away. I admired her so much more because of this. I worked with her just a few short months before I went on maternity leave. In those months, we became like two peas in the pod. Although she was much older than I was, we shared the same love for our work and talked like we had known each other for years.
When I returned from leave, she became my rock at work. My struggles with postpartum depression and anxiety made it difficult for me to transition back. I experienced a couple of breakdowns at work, to which she quickly rescued me and helped me cope. She comforted me when I needed it, and provided much needed daily laughs. When I began to worry about my son’s speech, she was there to help me navigate through things. Her nature ability to nurture comforted me in more times than I can remember. In fact, I still use some of the coping mechanisms that she taught me.
Sitting next to one another was a joy. We would discuss our industry speak to one another, seeking approvals or feedback. We found laughter in stupid memes or online stories. She taught me about her life experiences. I would convince her to order take out for lunch more times than we should have. We would battle each other out for FitBit challenges, knowing that it was basically the only way to get each other moving. We would laugh at the annoying things in life, and giggle at the silly things. She loved hearing stories about my son. I looked forward to seeing her every day.
Although my position was more senior to hers, she became my mentor. She taught me things it would take years or hours of research to find. She taught me about self-worth and career-based choices. Most importantly, she told me that I was constantly selling myself short – I was worth more than I was ever giving myself credit for.
Even after I parted ways with the company, we kept in touch off and on. I missed having her as part of my daily .She retired from work not long after. She did many things that were in her master post-retirement plan. She relished her time as a grandmother, and traveled to see her family. She started her gardening plans and her home improvement projects. She spent some well-deserved quality time with her husband.
Most recently, we caught COVID around the same time, and we commiserated on the symptoms and post-COVID life. I last spoke to her right before Christmas, and we kept saying how much we missed each other’s company and that someday, somehow, we were going to make our lunch plans happen once again.
This past week, I had a sudden urge to call her again. To my regret, I didn’t follow it through. Then yesterday, I found that she had passed unexpectedly on Thursday. I cried out in sorrow. I am heartbroken.
There was still so much to say and do. There were people that still needed her smile and care. She made such an indelible mark on those she knew. How could it have been her time?
It’s so unfair to have to say another good-bye to such a good person. I spent all of yesterday just feeling the pain of loss. I have never met anyone so kind and motherly. I imagine that there are so many others who feel the same. I don’t think there is anyone who would have a negative word to say about her – she was just so likable and caring. Her smile and laughter were infectious; her generosity and kindness were unmatched. She truly was an amazing person, and I will miss her immensely.