Monday Mottoes – #185
It was Palm Sunday and I had not checked my e-mails. I mean, one day— not even one day— a few hours of a break in life was too much to ask? By early afternoon, we were traveling again and I caught a glimpse of two communiques from my attorney in another country:
“Please call me regarding bad news about __________ (insert person’s name).” This was a manager of mine, someone who had been like a brother to me over the past 25 years.
One e-mail was from 2:30 in the morning and another from 5-something in the morning, our time. These are round numbers because my mind cannot remember the exact time and tragedies usually don’t happen in neat, round numbers. Tragedies generally come packaged with raw, ragged edges that hurt. By the time I saw the messages, it was about 2:00 in the afternoon, a full nine and almost twelve hours in the future, unheard- of for those of us balancing business across continents. The one moment I looked away….
My mind raced. I was not in a place where I could make a phone call. Such is the nature of modern travel: you’re occasionally out of touch. So I sent back an e-mail and then realized that my attorney would not necessarily be sitting in front of any computer at night in his country. And here I was, sandwiched between Palm Sunday on Sunday and Erev Pessach, the first night of Passover with its seder scheduled for Monday night.
Something was terribly wrong. I scanned news items in other languages, I checked out my manager’s wife’s Facebook page, my eyes racing over the foreign alphabet items. The last entry looked to be at the end of March, family photos, nothing ominous. I checked my phone. I had texted him last Tuesday, thought to call him toward the end of the week, but didn’t want to bug him too much…. On his WhatsApp account, I see the last time he was seen online was 8:58 am on Friday morning, their time.
And now something was up. Something bad. The second message read something like, “I have news that is not good. Call me when you can….”
What could go wrong with a manager who was like a family member? Had he run off with all of our funds in that country? No. Had he mismanaged to the point of doing us great harm? No. Had he come to some unfortunate end? No.
Reading it again, I see that my attorney has included his emergency phone number. Still unable to make a phone call, I decide to try and text him. I apologize for not being able to call and reach out to him.
After asking if I can call him later in the day when I will be able, he cuts through our normal pleasantries. The texts are ultra-brief from both of our sides of the globe, I am speaking texts in other languages, whispering them into a phone while traveling. His comes back:
“I regret to inform you that ________ is no more.”
I check the text and blink. It registers all too quickly, despite any translation problems, despite wondering if my foreign language skills are up to speed for any tragedy.
He is dead. Now I understand the urgency and how he was trying to contact me. In their country, the dead are buried within 24 hours. Over and out. Everyone drops everything, and it’s semi-unthinkable that most anyone from abroad could make it there in time, but I appreciate being informed.
I text back: I am so sorry to hear that.
Attorney: Did you understand what I wrote?
Me: Yes. What happened? I’m so, so sorry. Was he ill?
So he briefly informs me sketchy details about a tragedy that transpired. The funeral happened earlier in the day. I feel like I am kicked in my stomach, but it’s not about me. I ask what I might do for his widow, having been in their home on numerous occasions. I go through the motions, while reeling inside.
Which brings us to today’s quote:
“Emotions are the key to many aspects of life. They are precisely the elements that make human beings human. I think the fact that emotions have been reduced and put off to the side in intellectual work, particularly in the 20th Century, is tragic.” ~ Bill Viola
Because we are human, we feel. For me, it was a delayed reaction, since I am not somewhere private where I feel I can mourn. But within 30 minutes, after the initial shock wears off, tears start to flow and I cannot turn them off. I pull out tissues and napkins and whatever I can find as my eyes swell and my nose turns red. I put on my sunglasses and try to console myself. My eldest son, who almost grew up with this manager celebrating Petya’s arrival as I brought him along on business trips, speaking with him in Russian, reassures and consoles me. We will both miss our friend, whom he called uncle. My husband who never receives his texts from me, eventually expresses his regrets, having also met the manager on several occasions. We were all like family.
I will need to deal with my own details soon enough. After the holidays. More travel probably needed to sort things out, sign new contracts, hire a manager, but for now, I weep. I am human. Holidays and happiness are here to push me through this sadness, this friend from a world away, another faith, a different mentality, who was probably closer to me than my own brother.
Goodbye, my friend.
————Tags: a friend faces tragedy, bad news from a far country, being out of touch during travel, emergency contact from attorney, Passover Eve, the emotional aspect of life, tragic death of friend, when a business associate dies suddenly