Saturday, February 25, 2006

Wallace and Grommit

We watched some shorts of Wallace and Gromit last night with our Friday evening dinner. We typically have a substantial vegetarian or seafood dinner on Fridays because Gina and I fast until the evening, so Friday dinner is always a family event. Anyway, as we watched, I recalled the first person who ever brought Wallace and Gromit to my attention. Her name was Kelli, and she worked with me at a technical communications/localization company here in Boise.

Kelli was an intelligent woman, but she didn't have a lot of faith in herself. She was very talented in a number of areas (a fact I didn't learn until her funeral), but she hid many of her talents from the people with whom she worked. What I found ever present in Kelli was her child-like joy in sci-fi, cartoons, medieval folklore, and fantasy fiction. When Wallace and Gromit videos started popping up in the video stores, she was the first who mentioned them to me.

She also loved animals. She had a horse (rode English), at least one dog, probably a few cats, and no doubt other critters. In that way, she reminds me of my stepdaughters. They cannot say no to a new pet. Of course, I can, but occasionally they bring home something I have a hard time saying no, too. (Hannah just recently brought home her Christmas present from her twin sister, a chihuahua puppy. As much as I dislike chihuahuas, this puppy is a real sweetheart.)

As I mentioned, Kelli didn't have a lot of faith in herself, and she hid a lot of her anxiety and pain from us and from her family. She'd had at least one break we knew about. I recall one project on which she was working with a new technology, and I was the lead. I checked on her frequently, but for some reason, she never felt comfortable asking for my help. When time came for delivery, the files wouldn't compile, and I had to sift through and fix the errors. When we did the project postmortem, I wasn't happy, and I let her know. She left the meeting in tears, and the managers and supervisors made a point of teasing me about the meeting. As her manager pointed out, the project was my responsibility, and that was why I was angry with her. I couldn't address problems about which I had no knowledge. I still don't think I was inappropriately hard on her, but I still revisit that moment in context and wish I had done something different.

So this story doesn't end well. She called in sick one day at the end of one of her projects. I had been wanting to give her some encouragement because of a recent project on which she had worked. I called and left a message with her that day to tell her that she'd done a great job and that she was showing so much improvement.

The next day, I arrived at work and was informed that Kelli had committed suicide (an overdose of aspirin or ibuprofen). I was stunned as anyone would be at that time. I worked with the rest of the management staff to inform the others about what had happened. The company gave us all the day off to come to terms with the situation . On the day of Kelli's funeral, they sent out a grief counselor. During our team huddle, we were each asked to describe how we felt. When it came to my turn, I mentioned that I was angry at Kelli for doing this to herself and her family and friends. One of my friends and coworkers, Vicki (a gifted musician who has since died from of breast cancer)* got angry with me for voicing my anger. The counselor indicated that both reactions were common. We left and headed off to attend Kelli's modest funeral.

We arrived at the funeral home, and various former coworkers were there as well. What struck me were the photos of Kelli, the paintings and poems she had done, and the other memorabilia that was present. In that hour, I got a greater glimpse of Kelli than I'd ever had.

So here's to Kelli. Please pray for her soul.

* I think Vicki believed in the postmodern heroic vision of determining one's own fate. To her credit, when Vicki's time came, she stayed until it was over. I understand that she had a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Regardless of what the website says, I did the design (HTML coding). Nicole Lefavour did the photography, and Dartboard Interactive did the image processing. Please pray for Vicki's soul as well.
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