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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stars in the Sky

Just like the stars in the sky, there are people who light up my world simply by being in it. Be they near or far...merely knowing they are out there makes me feel better; because I know they make the world a better place just by gracing us with their existence. I recently lost one of my "stars in the sky". I found out that a very dear friend passed away twenty days ago.

I don’t remember the exact date sometime in September 2004 when I received this phone call from a man who sounded like he was in a hurry. He told me his name as he refreshed my memory by saying I interviewed with his colleague two weeks prior while he was away on vacation. I shuffled all my paper work and said to him, “I’m so sorry I’ve just been to so many job interviews the past few weeks, I could have literally made a full-time job out of all of them.” He said, "Isn't that the truth?" I heard his honest laugh on the line and then asked me if I could come in for a second interview. Two days later I came back and met with this handsome older man who reminded me of Clark Gable. He was tall with a gorgeous smile and thick salt-peppered hair. He told me what the job and the company was all about. We chatted for a good half an hour. He offered me the job the following day.

I only worked with him for about a year and a half. He was not easy, he worked quickly and rarely asked for help. He was never idle and whenever anyone would come to him for questions he always had the answers. He did not dilly-dally. He liked to be left alone, but his door remained open at all times. He typed, copied and mailed his own paper work. He returned phone calls and on many occasions when we were pretty understaffed in the office, he answered the phone with a “Yeah?” If one made a mistake, he made it known and never hesitated to say, "Shape up or get out." He shopped, cooked and served his employees during  holiday parties. He was a simple man who did not require a lot of attention. He was low maintenance. He had a different way of doing things. He was headstrong and did not like rules much. He didn't believe in ulterior motives and sincere even when he was upset with you. What you see is what you get. He told me more than once, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".  He and I butt heads more than twice. I’ve had my fair share of crying and wanting to walk out because I thought he was such a difficult person to work with. But I stayed because there were also many days when just seeing how hard he worked made me feel like perhaps I was not doing enough. Hearing his unaffected laugh was always a treat. He had this smile that was both charming and sincere.

I’d only been with the company a few months when I told him that I was bringing my father over from the Philippines. He quickly asked, “What can I do to help?” I told him I needed a letter stating that I have a stable job for the affidavit of support. He crafted this very nice letter for me in no time. He didn’t care about “at-will” he wrote that I was a permanent employee and that was that. Shortly after one of the assistant directors put in her notice, I asked him about the position and he flat out told me that I was not ready for it and that he did not think I would be happy in it. Again, full of sincerity and at that time I thought he was just being arrogant. What made him think I was not ready, right? I told him I could do it and I needed the financial gain. He gave me a couple important duties and then compensated me accordingly. Fast forward seven years, I smile thinking he was right. I would have not liked that position. There were a couple of times when I found out things were not being done correctly and he called me out on them. He thought I was overstepping my boundaries and doing things behind his back. I was frightened, but I showed him what I found out and the policy. I remember he asked me, “Are you absolutely sure?” I replied, “Yes!” He walked away, made some phone calls and sent out memos to rectify things.

He retired from the company sixteen months later. One day he came back to return the keys, he sat in my office to chat. He was in his casual wear and seemed so much more relaxed. I said to him, “I want to ask you a couple of questions since you aren’t my boss any longer and can’t fire me.” He chuckled because he knew I was teasing. I said to him, “First, why did you give me such a hard time and second, what made you hire me?” He smiled, sat back, put his hands behind his head and gave me this suspicious look. I was getting ready to tell him never mind, forget I even asked when he said, "I’m sorry if I was such an ass. I just had to see for myself what a strong asset to the company you were going to be and I know now that anyone would have to be an idiot to not want you on their team.” I almost choked, I did not expect that response, yet coming from him I knew he was being truthful. He continued by saying, "I didn't know what I was getting when I hired you. I always have a good feeling with people and I always hope they will not disappoint me. Sometimes it works out, sometimes not. You don't give yourself enough credit though, remember that you took as much of a chance when you accepted my job offer as I did when I offered it to you. Also, I always find it hard to dislike anyone who can make me laugh." We talked more about his retirement plans and about life. That moment was all it took for me to wish that I'd known him longer or had more time with him. We said our goodbyes with a hug and I told him I'd keep in touch. He smiled and winked at me as he walked away as if he was saying he'd totally understand if I didn't. So, I told him with more persistence, "No, I mean it! I will keep in touch!"

I kept my promise by sending him my handmade cards a few times a year on special occasions and holidays. I never once forgot his birthday the past seven years. Surprisingly, he also reciprocated with holiday cards and short notes about their travels and the projects he was working on. I received fourteen greeting cards from him. I didn't think much of our correspondence, until very recently when he passed on and I heard from his loving wife of 43 years. She wrote me a very nice letter stating how my handmade cards brightened his retirement years especially as he was battling with his illness. She wanted me to know that I was the only one from his pre-retirement life that has made any effort to keep in touch and that he truly appreciated it. Knowing this made me happy in a way that I was able to bring a little bit of joy to him; and sad wishing more people remembered him because he really touched so many lives. It made me realize that little acts of kindness don't ever go unnoticed. Once again I have proven that, "Some people walk into our lives and quickly go, others leave footprints on our heart and we are never the same". I talked to other people at work that knew him who shared their stories about this remarkable man. They remember his generosity and candor. They remember how he loved his employees and his willingness to give more than he took. Someone who worked with him for years said when this amazing man looked at people he always saw potential and not dollar signs. That right there epitomized the legacy that he left behind. It's truly not how long you stay in a place, it's about the difference you made in people's lives while you're there, and when you go...is that place better for your having been there? Rest in Peace, my sweet friend...until we meet again.


Unfortunately the stamp I used on this card is not from Stampin' Up! I thought it's absolutely appropriate to send to the family of my beloved friend. My world is a little dimmer because he's no longer in it, but knowing he's up there among the stars reminds me that it's indeed not the length of life but the depth of.

That's it for now. I encourage all of you to connect to the people you care about. Don't postpone letting them know how much they mean to you. You'll never know if it'll be your last chance to. Keep in touch and do so no matter how busy life gets. Before I end this post, I would like to leave you with a simple but profound question: "What will you be remembered for?

5 comments:

  1. Sorry for the loss of someone of such influence. It is so true, we should never wait to share a word of encouragement or an act of kindness. TFS

    You're invited to visit and 'Follow' my blog: "Avenue of Art"at: (www.AvenueofArt.com)

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  2. This is such a remarkable story and you're right we all have these people in our lives who touch our souls and make us care enough to try harder. I envy you the relationship with your friend and coworker, he indeed sounds like a wonderful man. And, so are you for caring enought to see his wonderful characteristics and go beyond his gruff exterior. Beautiful card and the sentiment fits so perfectly!

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  3. What a beautifully written, wonderful and fitting tribute to somebody who sounds so incredibly special. I'm sorry that his light is no longer with us, but the lovely impression he has left behind in those that he touched will live on. Thank you for sharing your story!

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  4. Thank you so much for your warm and thoughtful comments. I soooo appreciate the subscription. I am very new in the blogging environment and I could really use the support.

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  5. Melinda, I just found your blog from your post on Stampin Connection....Wow...this post is truly amazing....what fantastic writting from the heart! I love your blog posts and so happy I can now follow some of what you are crafting on here!
    Lynette

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