Until I heard the sudden word that a friend of mine was dead.
Jackson Browne, "Song for Adam"
It's never a normal day at work when you learn that a a well-liked and respected co-worker is dead. Even more abnormal when the co-worker takes his own life. That was the news I learned on Tuesday morning when my supervisor told me that Curt was dead. He and I were not close friends but in small office you develop a certain level of professional intimacy. That was easy to do with Curt; he had a pleasant manner, was always upbeat and genuinely nice guy. His death leaves a very large hole in our office. Seeing his empty office has been difficult for me over the past few days. I can only imagine the impact on his family and those who knew him better than I did.
Our most personal bond was music; Curt liked all kinds of music and generously shared his extensive collection with the entire office. I was always happy when I could introduce him to a musician whom he had not heard. More often, the situation was reversed.
Until recently, Curt was also the only other veteran among my co-workers. His experience was considerably different from mine. He was a 12 year Air Force E-6 who, I am certain would have made first sergeant (E-8) had he stayed in. He functioned in that role in our office--he kept all of the administrative functions running smoothly. Curt's efficiency and concern for the rest of us reminded me of the best first sergeants I knew during my short military career.
Curt had health problems throughout the almost five years that I knew him. He was often absent but, even with all that, he always seemed to be positive and never lost his concern for our welfare and professional reputation. I don't know any details of his condition other than he lost a lot of weight and suffered from frequent migraines. What I do know is that he was always kind and generous. I never heard him complain or indulge in self-pity.
I don't think it was a false front; I'm guessing that he expected to manage even if he couldn't beat whatever it was that ailed him. He was in the office for a few days just last week, pretty much as normal. Not long ago, it loaned him a Reverend Peyton CD that a friend had given me for Christmas. Curt liked it so much that he ordered several more. Not exactly something a person considering suicide is likely to do.
In the end, though, Curt decided that he no longer wanted to or could live with his illness. As far as I know, that was a rational decision and not one for me to judge. Rather, I remember Curt by what I knew of him from our personal and professional interactions. He was the very best of men. I am richer for having known him. I am poorer for his passing.
Godspeed, Curt. Thank you for everything.
Because we both know Warren Zevon: