I Watched A Man Die Today

Wars, natural disasters, murder, old age, cancer. People die every day. Thousands of them. Every day. The difference today is that I was there.

It did not make a difference to Dave. He was not even aware that I was there. By the time I saw him he could not see me.

I have known Dave for at least 20 years. We were not close though I knew him well enough to know that he was a really good guy and a good man. We are not connected so much by work, though his death  started in our office just feet from where I sit, but through other connections. A million years ago he dated a woman I worked with that was a friend. Later he married my close friend’s sister. I have known her since we were little kids. It is often strange the web of connections that binds two people.

It still feels like a dream or a sad movie. It can’t be real. He was just here. He just turned 50. Five years younger than me. On Sunday he watched his eldest child, a son, graduate from high school. Monday morning he went to his youngest child’s rehearsal for graduation from middle school. Because he had missed part of the morning he came to our office instead of the one at which he normally works. Our office is closer to his home than his real office 20 miles away. He walked in and waved to people he knew as he went to the guest office. He never made it in.

I heard the thud from my desk. I heard someone ask him if he was OK. I heard that question again a moment later and I ran out to see what was happening. Dave had fallen to his knees. A cubical wall kept him from falling forward. I saw his face.

The look on his faced is etched forever in my memory. Eyes wide open. Glassy stare. Lips apart. Still breathing but labored. Not responding to our voices. Nothingness.

Call 911! Get the Security people up here now! She called immediately. And again. Where were they?

Trying to figure out what to do. Someone slipped his briefcase off his shoulder. We got him lying down. He still was breathing but did not respond to our voices. His face was turning red. None of us knew what to do. I felt so helpless.

Fortunately people came who seemed to know what to do until the paramedics arrived. They gave CPR and used a defibrillator. Finally after what was probably only a few more minutes but seemed like a lifetime the paramedics arrived. They worked on him for 40 minutes or more. We were asked to stay back so I could not tell how he was doing.  I alternated between not wanted to watch and needing to get a clue as to how he was doing. All of this nightmare would go away if he just came out of this OK. He had to. But he didn’t.

While waiting we looked at each other. Dave’s wife had been called. We agreed on who would follow the ambulance to the hospital. I would stay behind with the team. About 15 of my people were there when it was happening. Someone needed to tend to them as well.

They were still doing CPR when they took him away which I took as a bad sign. Over the next hours I only had hope because I had not heard otherwise. Then the call I did not want to answer came.

I did not and still do not know what to feel…or more accurately how I feel. I learned from my mom’s death that death is strange. It only is the end for the one who dies. The rest of us need to go on. Her death was the only other one I had witnessed but in her case she had been ill for quite some time and we knew it was coming.

So I am sad, numb and feeling very mortal. Sad for losing a guy I knew and liked. Sad for his wife who I have known and liked forever. Sad for his children. Sad for all who loved him and called him friend. Sad for Dave. He will not be here to witness all of the future events of his three children.  Numb. I have started to cry at least a dozen times. Started but have not yet bawled. Why is that? Am I not sad enough? Am I not sensitive enough? Shouldn’t I be crying? Isn’t that what we are SUPPOSED TO DO when someone dies. Crazy the thoughts in your head at times like these. Crazier what people say.

First, you should know that I have a high tolerance for any and all reactions when people are sick or have died. No one knows how to act. There is no etiquette. We all grieve in our own way. There is no right or wrong. So the things I am about to share are not meant as a critique but just the craziness of dealing with tragedy.

Let’s start the “what stupid things people say in these times” with me. At some point while he was still on the ground with the paramedics I turned to the next guy and said something to the effect of “I could have gone my whole life without seeing something like this.” Wow. How selfish and thoughtless. Here he was fighting for his life and I was thinking about how it impacted me.  As the saying goes, “It is not about you”, meaning me. Again the craziness of the moment. Because in some sense it was not about him. The dead need no sympathy. They no longer care what you think or say. It was however, about his wife, his children, his close extended family and a long list of people before it was about me.

But what can you say. As we were waiting for the news from the hospital many people asked me if I was OK.  Of course I understand they are only trying to be empathetic and anyways what else could you ask. But am I OK? AM I OK? Hell no I am not OK. I am anything but OK. And yet I thank them for there concern and tell them I am fine because that is what you do.

One colleague came rushing in. He had been by before when the event was first unfolding and now it was between the time they took Dave to the hospital and THE CALL. He sincerely asked that I inform him when we know what happened…and then he reminded me that we will need to get together soon to discuss some client thing. Really. You had to throw that in. Now? But as I said I believe we should be tolerant of any reaction in these circumstances and I mean it.

How should we feel? What should we say? What should we do?

I gathered my work people together after they took him to the hospital and told them that however they need to deal with what happened they should. Most of my people did not know him well if at all but they had been there. I told them to work if staying busy helped or to take a moment, an hour or a day. Most people stayed. I stayed to watch over them.

So now I have shared on a miniscule scale what people in war, first responders and doctors in hospitals see every day. Death is not pretty. It is not what you see in movies and on TV. This was not made up, it was real life. Real Death.

I said I felt mortal. Dave had recently had an echo cardiogram. One of the more sophisticated tests to check your heart and arteries. He was told he was fine. I had one six months ago and was told I am fine. But the docs really don’t know do they? One paternal uncle died of a massive heart attack in his early 60s. I am about to be 55. Another uncle has survived 3 heart attacks. What me worry? (This part is all about me.)

Tomorrow we go on and sort out what this means. One of my bosses mentioned how this puts things in perspective. But what is that perspective? Do we do anything differently tomorrow? Do I? One person at work already resigned from her management role because she decided it was not worth the stress. I tend to be a one foot in front of the other kind of guy. I will go on. Do I change my life?

I have already been exercising more and trying to lose the extra pounds. I will continue though not because of today.

I will try to enjoy my life more and stress out less but change is hard. Maybe I take a year off and go climb a mountain. Maybe.

I am still working out what life means after watching a man die.

You Have Your Toe To Think About

If I only had a dollar for every time I heard someone say those words.

As those words hung in the air I knew I had to contemplate and then write about this unusual collection of letters and words. But what to say?

The back story is rather prosaic if not a bit embarrassing. I occasionally stub my toe. I guess that I do not always pick up my feet when I walk. Over the course of a year this might happen 3-4 times. And yet…

An epidemic occurred while on my vacation, while beach walking. In all at least half a dozen times. On one walk alone it happened 4 times. Same big toe on my left foot. It hurt, though not as much as the blow to my ego when at the third time on this walk the stub was instantaneously followed by a face first fall onto the beach…in front of three startled kids who had been working on a sand castle immediately to the left of where I hit sand. Another toe foot over I would have crushed them and destroyed the castle in one fantastic act of the ridiculously clumsy (I am contemplating starting a club of the RC as we will be called).

While wiping the sand off in the ocean, my mind was overwhelmed with two thoughts. First I could not rid myself of the image of the concerned mother of the children who in an excited voice either came over to see if I was OK or to yell at me for nearly destroying her family. It was hard to tell because she spoke in one of the many languages of the world I do not speak. The second was that I still had half a mile to go while dealing with a sore toe and the desire to remain vertical.

After returning to my lounge chair on the beach and going horizontal by choice, I began debating the merits of the words stubbed and jammed. Stubbing one’s toe conjures images of being clumsy and pathetic while one jams their toe in some act of manly athleticism.

I digress. I told you that the back story was prosaic.

It truly was the words and not what led to them that I find interesting. It must be the uniqueness of the combination. Or the image of toe contemplations similar to the navel contemplations of the 1960s.

All I know is when those words floated across the warm air from my wife’s beach chair to mine I felt that these would be words I would always remember. And probably never hear again.

Words, Words, Words

In July and Augustof last year I shared some of my favorite rarely used words. Having recently watched the movie version of My Fair Lady I was inspired to do so again. If you are wondering what MFL has to do with words you have not seen the musical or read Pygmalion. Rather than explain this to you I suggest you check out one or the other. Personally I recommend Shaw despite the great words and music of Lerner and Loewe. I provide a taste at the end of the post.

On to the words (definitions from Dictionary.com):

  1. interlocution. conversation; dialogue
  2. nuncio. a diplomatic representative of the pope at a foreign court or capital: equal in status to an ambassador 
  3. succour. help; relief; aid; assistance
  4. obfuscate. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy
  5. panoply. A splendid or striking array: Ceremonial attire with all accessories: Something that covers and protects
  6. protean. readily assuming different forms or characters; versatile
  7. brining. a salt and water solution for pickling
Now enjoy the following excerpts from My Fair Lady. The first version is performed by the incomparable Julie Andrews who was a hit as Eliza at age 20 on Broadway but passed over for the movie version so that a luminous Audrey Hepburn could star. However Audrey wasn’t much of a singer so Marnie Nixon, the singing voice for all non-singing actresses in movie musicals. The second version is from the movie but with Audrey’s voice not Marnie’s. All I can say is that Julie was robbed.

More Words

I have been  gathering more words to share.  I prefer words that are rarely used, have a high sonic quality but are not– at least in my view– pretentious. Definitions courtesy of dictionary.com.

Exogenous. originating from outside; derived externally

Endogenous. proceeding from within; derived internally

Multitudinous. comprising many items, parts, or elements

Peripatetic.  Walking about or from place to place; traveling on foot. Of or relating to the philosophy or teaching methods of Aristotle, who conducted discussions while walking about in the Lyceum of ancient Athens

Spate. a sudden, almost overwhelming, outpouring

Conurbation. A predominantly urban region including adjacent towns and suburbs; a metropolitan area.

I am always looking for more if you have some to share.

Personal Training For Weaklings


This post was going to be about my first 2 sessions with a personal trainer. How in the evaluation that was the first session we learned that I have no upper body strength, less flexibility and that parts of my body that usually get ignored hurt like hell as the PT twisted and stretched me. How after the second session when I actually exercised with weights I could not move the next day without screaming pain in at least seven distinct body parts.

But then I was trying to come up with a punny title on the _____ for Dummies theme and went to thesaurus.com for synonyms for weakling. What I discovered was too funny.

Main Entry:   weakling
Part of Speech:   noun
Definition:   baby
Synonyms:   big baby, butt, chicken*, chicken heart*, coward, cream puff*, crybaby, doormat, dotard, drip, fraidy cat, gutless wonder, invertebrate, jellyfish*, ladyfinger, lily liver, mama’s boy, mark, milksop, milquetoast, misfit, mouse, namby-pamby, nebbish, nerd, pantywaist, paper tiger, pushover, sad sack, scaredy-cat, shrinking violet, sissy, softie, sucker, tenderfoot, turkey, weak sister, weak tool, wimp*, wuss, yellow-belly

I was focusing on the physical while thesaurus.com clearly had the psychological in mind. My person favs are gutless wonder, milksop and pantywaist. Then to see if the encyclopedia could be of more help I discovered that Weakling had even greater range.

Weakling was a progressive black metal band from San Francisco. The band never toured and only made one album, Dead As Dreams, recorded in 1998 and released on tUMUlt Records in 2000.

I need to go find this recording so I can play it while my Personal Trainer works to make a man out of this namby-pamby.

Words of Note

I love words. They can be so expressive. I admit, however, that my reading vocabulary is modest for an educated man yet still above my speaking vocabulary. (The latter I attribute to the need to dumb down communications to senior executives in the corporate world.)

I am especially fond of words that are rarely used, have a high sonic quality but are not– at least in my view– pretentious.  I have been collecting words for about a week and want to share these. I will share more as my collection grows.

Definitions from Dictionary.com

  1. APLOMB.  imperturbable self-possession, poise, or assurance
  2. OBTUSE.  lacking quickness of perception or intellect. Characterized by a lack of intelligence or sensitivity
  3. EPITOME.  a person or thing that is typical of or possesses to a high degree the features of a whole class
  4. INSOUCIANT.  free from concern, worry, or anxiety; carefree; nonchalant
  5. EFFICACY.  capacity for producing a desired result or effect
  6. LARKY.  High-spirited; zestful
  7. IMPERTURBABLE.  incapable of being upset or agitated; not easily excited; calm
  8. Any word spoken in Italian

O.K. Insouciant may be a little pretentious. I still like it.

Please add your favorites.