Monday, December 13, 2010
My workmate Dean died in his sleep on Wednesday night. A couple of weeks ago, he'd had a heart attack. He managed to call the ambulance, which got him to intensive care in time to save him. He recovered in hospital, then had a few days rest at home. On Wednesday he was back at work for the first time, but he said he was feeling pretty tired. He didn't appear at work the next day. I was pretty busy and thought about him a few times, but I guessed he had gone back to hospital or something like that. No-one could raise him on the phone. Our boss Steve was pretty concerned, as Dean lived alone.
I had the day off on Friday. I played tennis early, then got a call from work on my way home to say that Dean's ex had found him. I went in to work to see if there was anything I could do. We only have about a dozen staff; Dean, Dave and I are the only designers. Steve, Craig, Jeff and Kath spent the morning calling people who knew Dean to tell them, and also calling clients to try to reschedule work. They were all pretty strung out after a few hours. It was very strange to hear them say "OK - can you come in on Monday and talk to Chris who will be taking over your project? ... I'm afraid Dean died on Wednesday."
We had a mini-wake for him at work that evening. I could tell that everyone was having trouble coming to terms with it. Because he was away for ten days already, his really-gone-ness will take time to sink in for everyone. People chatted about this and that, then someone would say something about Dean, then the conversation would move on. I didn't feel like there was any real acknowledgment that he wasn't coming back.
I sat diagonally opposite him at a group of tables in the middle of the room. (I'm having trouble getting the tenses right as I type this). He was a meticulous guy, very methodical with how he put things together and filed everything. He was quiet - worked with his headphones on a lot (like I do). He was a very, very good designer. I had worked side by side with him since the mid-nineties, and always aspired to have the sure hand with type and colour that he had. He was the most unpretentious guy - his best mates were all people he'd known for 30 years; fishermen, farmers and bikies.
Although I knew him a long time (and even went to his wedding way back), we only did one thing just together in that time. About six weeks ago we went to a careers evening put on by the professional association (that neither of us have ever joined), and spoke about what it's like to be crusty old graphic designers. We had a few beers and enjoyed each others company in a low-key blokey way.
He leaves behind 3 kids between 8 and 16, and a kelpie pup. He was only 48. I will be one of many at the funeral wishing I had taken the time to really get to know him better.