Bit of an out of character post for me this time - or is it? I found out this week somebody I used to work with had passed away. I discovered this on Facebook after another former colleague's post on her wall flashed up on my Newsfeed. Probably one of the worst ways you can find out that type of news, but there's never a nice way to find that out is there?
It completely blindsided me. I found out in the morning before working a late shift, and it took all of my self-control to keep it together and go to work.
At the same time I felt guilty for feeling like that. This was someone I hadn't worked with for ten years and although we had kept in touch for a bit when I left the company, we hadn't had any direct contact for years. As with many former colleagues, we were Facebook and Twitter friends, so kept track of each other's lives in the general way we do now on social media.
I knew I had to write something to commemorate this person. A poem didn't quite feel right, a blog post felt more natural. It's strange because we spend such a huge amount of our lives at work. We become intimate with our co-workers' lives, feel like we know their family by association, and become tuned to their ways and mannerisms without even realising it.
I'm not referring to this amazing lady by name out of respect to her family and close friends, but any of our other former colleagues will know who I am talking about. She - it gets me right in the heart to be referring to her in the past tense - made such a first impression on me. Welcoming, feisty, always incredibly glam with her impressive mane of hair and lipstick always on point. The first person to give me free reign in the working world, to let my creativity run riot. An incredible advocate of public libraries, always with a huge pile of books to read on her desk, full of unique ideas to keep book lovers of all ages interested. On the cutting edge of the latest technology and trends to engage with and bring out passion for the arts in all. She would devise events for teenagers I would never have expected to work and make them a resounding success.
With her support I was able to launch the local authority's first Poetry Reading Group, which as far as I'm aware is still going strong years later. She gave me the freedom to run a Teenage Reading Group, to build a firm foundation in those involved, a love of books which will last them a lifetime. She also supported me in my own creative writing, and always told me about extra events she knew were right up my street. She pushed me to network outside of the local authority, and build contacts in the arts which would give unlimited opportunities both for the local authority, and my own poetic life. I could write all day and still not even include all her fabulousness.
This week's events made me think about how much of an impression people we work with can make on our lives. Don't just say to former work mates 'we must meet up soon' and then do nothing about it. Because you never know, there just might not be a next time. Make the time. Put in the effort.
The only way I've possibly been able to make sense of this is to feel lucky. It's a cliched word which is bandied about far too often for my liking - but I do feel blessed to have had this person in my life, albeit not for long enough. My heart goes out to her family and of course friends as well as our other former colleagues. Maybe some people are only supposed to be in our lives for a short time. Perhaps their stars burn brightly and quickly. I'll be seeing you in the stars in my bright sky tonight you absolute diamond of a lovely lady.