Saturday, September 5, 2009

Mourning Chaucer

I learned earlier today that a friend of mine, who I'll refer to here as Chaucer (I am the only one who ever called him that in an inside joke on his actual name), passed away yesterday afternoon. Chaucer was only 28 and a good man. We worked together for several years and remained friends after I left the company. I had actually seen him a few times in the last few weeks. Once to take him out for lunch for his 28th birthday and again just three days ago. He was not feeling well when I saw him on Wednesday but there was no clue that it would be the last time I would see him. I sent him an email on Thursday to ask if he was feeling any better and he responded late that the doctor had discovered a blood clot in his leg. I did not see the email until Friday morning. I sent him another email but never heard back from him. I spoke with a mutual friend on Friday afternoon to see how he was doing but by then (though we did not know it at the time), he had died.

The news started to filter out today when people started posting memorials on his Facebook page. It was a frantic afternoon today as friends were calling to confirm the news. Shock prevailed - and it still does.

Chaucer was a good man (it's hard to believe that I am referring to him in the past tense). He had a good sense of humor and could take a joke - which is a good thing because I am not above making very inappropriate comments at usually inappropriate times. He was often the victim of my pranks and never openly objected to them or my running commentary. He loved his music and was always generous with sharing his CD's when he thought I might enjoy listening to them. I enjoyed asking him for stories about "Band Camp" (a reference to the movie American Pie) and the things he did with his weekly travels to band competitions during the summer time. When he complained about how tired he would be at the office after a weekend at a competition, I pointed out to him that it was voluntary and all he had to do was not sign up for them again. So, of course, after listening to him complain for the first year about it, he signed up again the following summer. It was a running joke for the rest of the time we knew each other.

When he joined the company, it was my job to help and mentor him to develop as a programmer. He had an open mind and wanted to learn. He did not mind criticism and never took it personally on the rare occasions I had to give it. He wanted to learn from his mistakes and was always very personable. Rarely did anyone have a cross word about him personally. He was always open to people, friendly and had a positive attitude.

My favorite memory of him relates to Star Wars. Our entire team did the interview process with each of the candidates (and, on a side note, I like this idea when hiring someone to work on a team). On the day that Chaucer came in for his initial interview, I was not there so he had to come back another day to interview with me individually. We talked both about work-related issues and inconsequential matters - this gave me an idea about both what he knew and how he was as a person as well as how he might be to work with. My final question - which always made my boss cringe - was whether he had seen Star Wars. Sorry, but if you are going to work in a technical position, you absolutely must have seen the movie. He assured me he had. I liked him and felt he would be a good addition and gave my recommendation to my boss, too (the rest of the team had already approved him). Perhaps only a month or two after he had started working, we were talking about something and I made a reference to something in one of the original movies. Chaucer missed it completely. It was then that I found out he had only seen Episodes I, II and III - he had never seen the original trilogy! Not only had he never seen them, he had never even HEARD of them! I was floored! He had lied to me! From then on, whenever I could fit it into a conversation, I made reference to him lying about Star Wars with the joking inference that he was just a liar trying to get ahead in the world - something that was obviously untrue. I should point out that I did bring in my copy of the movies for him to watch the next day and he did watch them, so at least he would get all future references to the movies.

There is much more to say but it is still difficult to come to grips with his premature death. I only hope that his family and friends will know how good a man he was. I will treasure his memory and mourn his loss.

Goodbye, Chaucer.

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