Today started like any other day. The sounds of coats unzipping, coffee brewing, laptops spinning up, and the sharing of Good Morning‘s broke the office quietude. The gradual buzzing activity eventually settled into the sounds of routine – a routine that was sharply broken by a singular scream, some sobbing, and finally, four stunning words. My son is dead.
At first I thought I misunderstood the commotion building behind me and was hopeful I didn’t hear the conversation correctly. Sadly, I didn’t mistake the words as my coworker had indeed lost his son. I’m not going to go into specifics here because a) we don’t know many and b) it’s not my place. What I can tell you is that the entire office was stunned into silence, shocked into tears, and left wondering what any of us could do. Some took the news incredibly hard while others reverted to stoicism. It reminded me once again that you can never tell what’s going on in someone else’s head (thank you, Dr. Cox). Minutes ground into hours as the packs of people eventually broke up and returned to their desks to either bury themselves in work or gather up their belongings and head home. Two women stood out from the rest in their visible grief.
I was in a quandary because my emotions vasillated between the extremes. I was unsure whether I should talk to them because my default state in these situations is to adhere to the biblical meaning of my name – stone. That’s my comfort zone, to be the stable one for others to lean on. I’m not sure when or how I developed that characteristic – it’s been like that my entire life. I didn’t want to be the one with wavering emotions with these two women. Fortunately I was able to distract myself long enough to convince myself that I was ready and off I went to the first one’s cube. She was crying and I asked possibly the dumbest question (if I’ve asked a dumber question from one of you, feel free to remind me another time), Are you okay? Like I said, dumb. Thankfully we were able to move past that and got into a lengthy discussion about life, legacy, society’s direction, the nature of depression, and so much more. By the end she was smiling and that stirred feelings of pride.
The second woman was busy and I had to resolve to talk to her tomorrow as I quickly grew so unfocused that it was better to leave. I’m sure you’ve all been there, staring at the same sentence or paragraph for an extended period and still you have no idea what it says. Or perhaps you find yourself just staring at the ceiling or out the window. Speaking of…
As I reflect on the events earlier, I recall a point where we stood talking in a circle and I found myself staring outside. It was a bright, sunny day. Outside those office walls, cars entered and exited the parking lot. People hustled to and from their cars to get out of the cold and it was a bright, sunny day. Inside the building, around the city, and all over the world, people went about their day more or less in their usual way. I looked out the window and it was a bright, sunny day. All I could see was a hazy gray.