Not single spies, but in battalions

April 19, 2005 - 12:00am -- swingbug

I'm going to rant on about sad things for a bit. If you don't want to deal with it, don't read it. I totally understand. I wouldn't write it if I didn't need to get it out.

It's been a rough couple of days for me. Friday in particular was hard. A technician who worked for our office died on Thursday night. We got the news on Friday morning. He was working on a project for another company at the time (field archaeologists are rarely permanently on staff anywhere - they hop from project to project). An accidental death. He was 26. He had a girlfriend he had been living with for something like 4 years. She had worked for us too.

Nobody here got much work done on Friday. When something like this happens -- so young, so sudden, so random -- you spend a lot of time trying to convincing yourself that it's true and real.

And it seems like it's been happening a lot lately. Nearly everyone I know has lost someone in the past six months.

We spent time on Friday calling co-workers and friends, letting everyone know. The archaeological field is small, family-like. I came back from lunch and had my hand on the phone to call a good friend who used to work here to tell her about our co-worker. Picture this for a second: my left fingers are touching the receiver and I realize that I've received an email. I click on the email with my right hand. It was from my aunt and the subject said "sad news."

Let's talk about the glories and dangers of email for a second. One of the great things about email is that you can fire off a quick one line note to let someone know you were thinking about them. It's nothing to a phone call or a letter, perhaps, but phone calls and letters take time and we're all busy folks these days. It's easy to forget about those things once you finally get home after a long day and then there is dinner to make and dishes to do, etc. In email etiquette, it's perfectly okay to send these random little thoughts off to friends and loved ones.

Email etiquette, you say? Oh, yes. There is email etiquette. A few simple guidelines:

  • Don't type emails in capital letters. This is akin to shouting.
  • Use proper punctuation in email. You're not in a chat room. Spell your words.
  • Short, three-sentence emails that say "I love you" or "I miss you" are okay.
  • Short, three-sentence emails that say "By the way, your uncle just died" aren't so okay.

So there it was. A three-line bomb dropped into my work email account, waiting to explode in my face when I got back from lunch. My great uncle John died. My hand fell away from the receiver.

My great uncle John was super cool. My grandparents on that side of my family died before I was three years old; I have no distinct memories of them. Uncle John and Aunt Kitty have always been my surrogate grandparents.

I remember one visit with Uncle John and Aunt Kitty back when I was in high school. Uncle John took me aside and said, "Well, Shannon. I was getting so sick of seeing this "www" whatever everywhere and not knowing what it meant or anything about it. So you know what I decided to do?" I was ready for something like write a letter to editor about how rude that is. Uncle John was probably 80 years old at this point and so far as I know he had never touched a computer is his life. But no.
"I went down to the senior center and I took computer classes. Now I can type letters. I have an email account. I surf the web and I have bookmarks of all the places I like to go. And, Shannon, I've made a decision. I never want a computer."
"Why is that, Uncle John?"
"Because I'd be on it all the time."
That's how cool my Uncle John was. I will miss him dearly.

Since we lost my grandmother last year, deaths of acquaintances, friends, and family have been hitting me hard. We never did have a funeral for Grandma and I feel like every time I lose someone else, I lose her all over again. Of course, how often should you really have to lose people? Why is that happening so often lately? Is it just me or is it happening to you too?

And here I am, crying at my desk again. My co-workers are going to commit me.

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