I opened the email from our department’s VP with the subject “Sad News,” more than half expecting it to be about someone in the company I didn’t know.
So when I saw Judy’s name and the words “passed away unexpectedly,” they seemed to fly right off the computer screen and into my heart. I had to read them twice, three times, before I could even gasp.
I was sitting at a desk in our East Rochester office, probably not far from the desk where she had worked, when I read about Judy’s passing. My home office is in Syracuse, but my co-worker Michelle and I travel the 85 miles to East Rochester about once a week to meet with folks there on a project.
Every once in awhile I would think, I should stop by and say hi to Judy during one of my trips there.
Judy’s job involved providing support to the Customer Care staff in East Rochester. This meant handling everything from incoming faxes and returned mail to sending out letters, forms and other materials that customers requested. And, more than likely, dozens of other tasks that she just sort of took on over the years without being told to, but just because.
I can’t remember exactly when my instant messaging relationship with Judy began; it’s been years. I must have really helped her out at some point with some work-related question, because every so often she would reach out to me when she had a situation that she didn’t know what to do with.
Over time, her messages to me began with a familiar greeting: “hi pal o’ mine!” She favored using a bold purple font and lowercase letters. That was just Judy’s style.
Me, I try to be grammatically correct and professional, even in my instant messaging (unless I forget to spell check before hitting send), although I have recently changed my font to one I find more attractive, and made it blue, my favorite color.
“Hi Judy!” I’d type back.
Then came the request. Sometimes it was as simple as sending a reminder out on the department blog, which I maintain.Other times she had a question, or needed direction on how to handle a particular piece of mail or fax.
In any case, once I sent the reminder or helped her figure out what to do with her issue, Judy’s response invariably came back in the form of one of those cute animated emoticons, the kind that gives virtual hugs, blows kisses or produces a bouquet of flowers.
Now and then, if she felt her question was particularly thorny or if I got back to her more quickly than she anticipated, Judy would simply type the words “you rock!” instead. In purple, bold lowercase letters, of course.
I’ll never see those words in that font again.
I checked out her obit, and saw the face of a pretty blond woman smiling back at me. I couldn’t recall ever meeting her in person. Not that I hadn’t had multiple opportunities.
And I read the adjectives other people used to describe her in the funeral home guest book: wonderful (used most often), warm, caring, funny, helpful, kind. Yes, she was.
And yes, I feel regret–regret that I didn’t take a few minutes out of my workday, even once, to locate her work station when I was in East Rochester and experience her smile in person. Or maybe exchange a real, face-to-face, hug.
I’m sure you know where this post is going.
If it occurs to you to call someone, call her. Send her an email or, if you’re old school, a card or a note.Stop by her desk the next time you’re in her office or on her floor.
Because you just never know, right? You just never know when “all the time in the world” ends up being no time at all. Or when there won’t be a “next time I’m in the neighborhood…”
All I can do now is return one of Judy’s virtual hugs. Maybe send her one last, big, “mwwwwwah!” A silent apology for not stopping by to say hello when I had the chances.
And the hope that, wherever she is, she is being appreciated for her wonderful, warm, caring, funny, helpful, kind self.
Because, Judy, you rocked, too.