So you know how in life, you encounter people that due to their actions, they ensure that whenever you hear their name, it causes a negative reaction? Where you swear that you will never name your child that name due to the bad association? I have a couple of people in my life that fit that description, and R was one of them. At my former job, this woman saw me as a threat for whatever reason, and did whatever she could to backstab and undermine me, all with a smile on her face, of course. If I hadn't trusted implicitly the sources who informed me of her doings, you would have thought she was one of my best friends if you had seen us together at work.
In fact, she committed one of the most egregious acts that ever happened to me in my working career, one that still makes me angry when I happen to think about it. I had a wonderful working relationship with our manager, and when she resigned, she assigned me some duties she wished me to carry out in the few days after her departure. I made sure to let R know that it was not me who was requesting her to take up a task, it was something our supervisor just hadn't had time to speak with her about and wanted me to relay.
In hindsight, I should have known that R would assume that I was trying to be her boss, but my mind doesn’t necessarily work that way and I was just trying to fulfill the request of my former boss. She took her complaint to the head of the department, accusing me of acting like her superior and such. In fact, her complaints must have been so vehement that they were actually mentioned in my yearly review. Thus me being pissed off.
I maintained a veneer of civility with R, although I never resorted to the backstabbing maneuvers she loved so much. R was a lonely woman, who lived in a big house with her ailing mother, who was in such ill health that she was in the hospital very frequently. There was also a live-in nurse, but basically it was just the three of them. When I came back from my maternity leave, I shared a workspace with R, and I truly did sympathize with her the burdens of caring for her mother, which was not easy. Although I still didn’t trust her, or even really like her. She didn't have many friends, although I think she was an introvert by nature. She was my peer, and our job wasn't really a goood fit for introverts, but somehow she stuck with it.
R and I never hashed out any of our issues, and after the birth of my child, I was pretty much done with worrying about her next move since I knew I would be leaving fairly soon. Of the many people I look back with fondness upon, she was not one of them.
After logging on my computer yesterday after being incommunicado, I found an email from an old colleague sent last week informing me that R had died from heart failure complications.
She was 35, exactly the same age as me.
So after feeling some bitterness tinged with sympathy for her the entire time I had known her, why do I now feel guilty for not really liking her? What is it about death that makes us automatically want to sanctify the person? As if death somehow makes them less responsible for their actions than they were in life. It is so illogical, yet it seems to happen all the time. Perhaps it is because they are no longer able to “defend” themselves, and so you feel as if it is bad form to criticize them. But does death negate the things they did?
But no matter how much I didn't like her, she was very young to die, and it sounded as if she may have been suffering for the weeks before her death. I would never have wished that upon her. She taught me some valuable life lessons, albeit painful ones, and as I mature I find myself accepting her for what she was. Or perhaps it is that I haven't spoken with her in the almost five years since my departure. Whichever, it has worked for me.
R, I truly hope you are resting in peace, a peace you never really seemed to have found in life.