Waking up on a Monday morning, my coworkers and I resumed our normal routine: Hit the snooze button, get dressed and head to work.
The news we received, however, was anything but routine.
The department I worked in was called into a secluded room. Glancing around, I assumed someone was fired and we were getting prior notice before the rest of the company. I assumed wrong.
“Ally passed on Saturday night,” our boss informed us, his voice cracking. Some gasped and covered their faces. Others sniffed, tears slowly rolling down their faces. I, like a few, exhibited blank stares.
I started choking on my word: “How?” It felt like a joke, or a sick scenario I would conjure in my head. My stomach turned: I felt ill.
We were informed that we could take walks outside and there was a grief counselor to come in. A colleague reached for the door — hugs were exchanged, and we slowly filed out. Others not included in the meeting looked at us, confused. But they would soon find out.
A sob was heard. Someone that worked closely with Ally was shaking, tears streaming down her face. By the elevator, someone else was crying in disbelief: “She was just here, she was just here.” How do you grasp the fact that a coworker who you said “see you later” on Friday was gone the next day, that you were not to see her later? Meaningless words, given the context.
The rest of the day was a quiet, quick blur. The air felt heavy, suffocating. Outside, the weather was a contrastingly beautiful day: a cloudless strikingly blue sky complimented with a slight breeze. Earphones in, I threw myself into my work. I kept glancing at her desk, still waiting for her to come in, for the joke to be over. But unfortunately, it isn’t over. We lost one of our dearest friends and coworkers.
I didn’t cry that day. I collaborated about donating to the Humane Society in her name, sent an email to my department regarding the news and inquired about the service. I went home as normal, albeit numb.
It didn’t hit me until the following night. Staring at pictures of her, I cried. The noises that emitted from me sounded guttural and animalistic — I scared myself with how raw I sounded. Delayed grief, if you will. The counselor said it was normal.
Death is a funny thing. Hearing a large number of casualties on the news, one may not think anything of it. Being informed of the individual death of someone you knew, and the grieving can last eternally, your routine involving the once living now interrupted. I’m proof of this: the flow of work projects has changed, and I can’t email Ally on any questions I have. Even my way of walking has been disrupted: I take the long way to avoid looking at her desk, which can be seen when I stand, and look to the right. I used to sit two desks behind her and when I first started, she was directly in front of me. She was one of the first employees I spoke to.
I’m a fatalist, but the phrase “too soon” in regards to death is conflicting to me. Is any death really too soon if there is a reason someone died unexpectedly? I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever know.
What I do know is this: the deceased still remain with us. For Ally, this is evident in a glass of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, a dog adoption, a clumsy moment, or a Patriots win. At her service, we watched her husband, close friends and family speak of their loss. Her colleagues may eventually find closure, and life will go on. I am unsure how those who had immediate relationships will sustain. Their routines have been interrupted, their lives forever changed.
It’s difficult not to regret things that were or were not said and done, but we must abandon all “could haves” and “should haves”. Someone told me with that mindset comes regret, and you can’t regret everything you have done, especially past interactions. We must take our time moving forward, and realize that those gone are still indeed here with us, and will always be.
This morning, we gathered on the beach to light Chinese lanterns written with custom messages. We wore purple, her favorite color, and threw carnations of the same color into the ocean. It was cold, windy and rainy, except in our area. Despite the weather not being ideal, the sun still rose.
Originally published at medium.com