In the past three months, I’ve had to deal with the passing of two friends, AV folks I had worked with five or six years ago. They weren’t just good people, they were friends of mine (though they didn’t know each other).
When the first friend passed away, the news spread very quickly through the AV world; everyone was instantly talking about him, and writing little “in memorandum” notes in their blogs and trade magazines. A natural leader in sales, he was very warm and friendly, with a confident smile that could win over any crowd. Although he was very busy, he always took time to talk to me at the office, to get to know me, my personal life, and my engineering projects. He had a wife and kids, and loved to golf. I would see him at the annual trade shows; he was always very popular.
About a month after he died, I heard about the death of another friend whom I used to work with at another company, back when I was an installer. He won’t be featured in any magazines, but he was well-known and loved in his local circles. A part-time musician, he played keyboards in some successful local bands in the 80s, and built a recording studio in his house, which he owned. He lived there alone, I think he lived in that same house his entire life, or most of it.
And he did great AV installation work;think of the song, “Wind Beneath My Wings“. I worked with him almost daily for 2 years, and he taught me everything I know about wiring racks, patch bays, crimping, multi-pin connectors, wire pulls, camera mounts, soldering, grounding, you get the picture.
Although these two friends led very different lives, they also had a lot in common. They both worked in the AV industry over 30 years, pioneering techniques and standards that have become today’s best practices. They both lived most of their lives in Connecticut, and both died in their early 50s, unexpectedly. And both are impossible to replace.
When I heard of their passing, I felt like I should have called them more often, instead of just adding them as friends on Facebook or LinkedIn. I should have told them I missed working with them, that it was hard to leave such good friendships as I found new employment. I should have told them how much I appreciated all that they did for me, and that I would never forget them, ever. I should have shown them some love. But I didn’t, and now they are gone, and I feel like I can’t do anything about it. I guess that’s why I decided to start this blog post. It wasn’t for them, it IS for me. It is also for YOU, if it somehow helps you cope with a loss of a loved one.
So, where do we go from here? Well, how about telling your coworkers ” good job” once in a while, patting them on the back, or sending an email to their supervisors telling them how much you appreciate their work? Call up someone you used to work with and offer to buy them lunch. Give someone a LinkedIn recommendation (even if it raises flags to your HR department). Tell your boss that you have learned a lot from them, and mean it. If you are the boss, take your employees to lunch, bring bagels on Fridays, or start an “employee of the month program”. Encourage employees to nominate each other, and reward them with gift cards or special parking spots (which don’t cost anything but will be valued for sure). Give everyone their birthday off as a paid holiday.
Most importantly, please remember that most working adults spend 20 to 30 hours a week with their coworkers, and only 4 to 8 hours a week with their “non-work friends”. So why do we keep the best “work friendships” limited to work hours only? Do me a favor, and don’t take those “work friends” for granted. Ask them what they are doing after work, or plan a get together over the weekend. Friends are friends, and its about time you show them some love.
Postscript 6/17/2011 – A few months after I wrote this essay, I attended a memorial party at Infocomm 2011 for Kevin M. Collins, including a musical performance by the HB Communicators. Check out the photos here.