It is Monday morning and the office next to mine is empty. Looking in, there are lots of reminders of previous occupancy. A yellow pad with familiar handwriting. Family pictures not yet removed. Paint rubbed off the wall from the desk chair hitting it as the occupant moved around. The echo of my words, “Hey, Michael” still hangs in the air from my many calls to him for help in solving a problem or for his memory of past events. But he will be in to finish cleaning out his office. Something to look forward to.
After 35 years at HAC, Michael Sweeney retired on Friday. He was the Chief Operating Officer. He was good at a long list of things that I am not good at. And he was always here getting it done.
Can we go on without him? I know we can. People have left before. But it won’t be the same. How do you fill the void of decades of working together with less than five minutes total of even mildly angry words? How do you fill the space inside you that completely trusts someone and depends on that person to be here in all situations? How do you replace the emptiness inside where the steadiness and dependability of a human relationship used to be?
At his retirement party Friday night my wife reported that when talking about Michael, I said that he wasn’t really a friend. I don’t remember saying that but if I did say it I know why. For me a friend is someone you hang around with for the fun and camaraderie you receive from that friendship. In Michael’s case we shared some of that. But 99% of our relationship was about our work at HAC. Yes, we shared social time, sometimes during working hours and sometimes on weekends, but Michael was not central in our social circle and we weren’t part of his. With Michael we worked together every day. We solved problems together every day. We sat in each other’s office every day. We passed in the halls every day. We went to the dump together every Saturday and talked about work most of the time and family some of the time. We spent a lot more hours together than I ever have spent with a “friend.”
There must be another word that describes our relationship. People who serve in the military, particularly in battles, refer to those they were closest to and who they experienced difficult times with as their “buddies.” I have never understood that term, but maybe it applies to Michael and me.We certainly qualify as buddies. The buddy bond will always be there. That comforts me. But I miss his presence now.
|You can read more about Michael Sweeney's 35-year career at HAC and his contributions to those we serve by clicking this link.|