Wednesday, June 20, 2012
A former boss' mother passed away, so I went to the funeral home last night to offer my condolences. I knew it would likely turn into a long night as other former co-workers showed up since everyone would want to chat about the "old days" and catch-up with everyone.
I had worked at that company for 16 years, but many of them had worked there longer than that, so we have a lot of history with each other. The company was the target of a hostile take-over ten years ago and everyone was let go on the day the merger closed and we all scattered. Some have kept in touch with others, so whenever small groups of us get together there are a lot of updates shared.
It was very sobering this time, however. I barely recognized some of the people because time has not been kind to them. Some had gained a lot of weight and others looked ashen because of poor health. I couldn't believe my ears when some of the men were comparing bypass stories and trying to out-do each other. One had a double bypass, one had a triple bypass, and then one boasted about having a quadruple bypass. Is that really something to boast about with a smile on your face? And then someone tried to outdo them all by saying he had "whatever they call it when you have five bypasses". I've never heard of anything beyond a quadruple bypass before.
The sobering thing was that they all seemed to brush this off as just being part of life. That may be the problem with the advances medical technology has taken - we just expect there to be a pill or for doctors to just patch us up and put us back together. The other sobering thing was that these men were only five years older than me - much too young to be having heart attacks and bypasses! One man had a stroke in his late 40s and is not on disability and another one had a "widow maker" heart attack and boasted that the survival rate is only 20%. I think that gave him too much confidence, and not a sense of mortality, because he boasted that he still hasn't slowed down even though his doctor told him to reduce his stress. It was also sad to hear of so many people who had already died, well before retirement age, and how many others are fighting various forms of cancer.
Most of these men were the hard-driven types who gave their lives to their career at all costs. They lived the high life with travel, expensive dinner meetings, and lots and lots of alcohol. In addition to their health issues, there have been many divorces and a few suicides and I just wanted to scream at them and ask if it had really been worth it. I'm sure they wouldn't have gotten my point because they're all still competitive.
While it was great to see some of them and catch-up, I found it to be very sad, too, that they hadn't lived balanced lives and now their health and many of their relationships were in shambles. I am glad that I've tried to live a balanced life and not sell my soul to the company and have outside interests and friendships away from the office. That means I didn't get the promotions and higher salary that the others got, but that's okay - I still have my health, and that is priceless.