Losing an employee or colleague is never easy. Whether because of resignation, relocation, termination, or death, the loss is painful and takes time to heal. When multiple losses occur within close temporal proximity to each other, it is hard to process all the feelings: the joy that a friend has found new success; the excitement that comes from watching someone embark on a new adventure; the disappointment that an employee did not meet expectations; the sadness that tears your heart in two as you realize that a child has lost a mother, and a husband has lost a wife.
I have been writing this post for a couple of days now and questioning my tenses (present, past, or both?). Hoping that the past tense would not apply, but knowing that inevitably it would. Debating whether to keep the memories private or expose them to the world. My memories are not those of a loved one or close friend. The depth of my loss is shallower than others will feel, but that does not mean the loss is shallow. My distance from the situation (physically and emotionally) means that I am one who can try to offer words of comfort, but from India, that is all I can offer. Words, words, words. And, words fail me now. Every word sounds so trite, so inadequate.
I first met Tammey Dunn during my initial employee interview at The Integrity Group. At the time, she was the Director of Documentation Services. I interviewed on a Friday, and Tammey was in jeans, which I took as sign that the atmosphere was casual. We chatted for a while—standard interview stuff really. The one phrase that I remember from the interview is “We’ve never missed a deadline.” That impressed the hell out of me. Never? Nope. Never. I thought, “Perfect! I love deadlines!” (Yeah, I was young and naive.)
After I came to Integrity, I never directly reported to Tammey. Our spheres of influence intersected, but they were not closely aligned. The first thing I learned about Tammey was that she was an expert communicator, especially in email. With a one-line email to a client she could turn “we might cancel the project” into “we will sign the addendum.” She was just that good. I have always thought Tammey was Integrity’s most effective email communicator (don’t tell Deborah I said that). But, now, I am searching my memory to remember if I ever told Tammey that.
In my first year as a manager, I had to terminate an employee. When things got to the point where action needed to be taken, it was Tammey I turned to for advice. She helped me process through what had been done and what had to be done. Her keen ability to objectively assess a business problem and reach a resolution is a quality that I wish I possessed more of. Her business acumen reflected a tough, take-no-prisoners attitude. I sought out that toughness when deciding on next steps with my employee. I did not want to be talked out of the tough choice I knew I had to make. I wanted reassurance that the decision was the right one for the business. Tammey assured me it was.
That toughness is why I was surprised to learn that she lost her battle with cancer. I and so many other people assumed that she would apply that same toughness to her cancer battle and win. But, there are some times when no matter how well planned the battle is, no matter how hard-fought, the outcome is not as hoped or expected. One lost battle does not mean that other battles will not be fought and won; just that this one was not.
It was raining today in Mumbai. Monsoon is supposed to be over by now. At first, I thought, “God is crying for Tammey.” But, then I remembered the quote that always comes to mind when I see it rain here:
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It is about learning to dance in the rain.