I’ve spent the last nearly 7 years working for a wonderful software/tech company.  Truly an advantage of my job is the opportunity to work with people far younger than I – indeed the founder and president of the company is 8 days younger than my daughter.  While working with such a young workforce hasn’t staved off my grey hair or wrinkles, it does help me (I think) have a more youthful outlook on life.  In short, I thoroughly enjoy my younger colleagues.

Today, though, the company aged in a way none of us would have wished.  Last night, we lost a good friend, a well-liked and respected colleague, to pancreatic cancer.  He hadn’t reached his 40th birthday, and leaves his wife and two small children.  He was diagnosed only a couple of months ago.

We knew he was gravely ill, we knew that pancreatic cancer was not a “good” cancer to have (if there is such a thing).  But I think that we were all taken aback that his fight ended so quickly.  How does one prepare for or accept the death of someone so young?  I suspect that few of my younger co-workers have attended a funeral or visitation of someone so close to their age.

Jeff won’t be forgotten.  He was there when we were a small company; he helped us grow to the hundreds of employees we now have.  He started out as a worker-bee, but his technical skills and people skills led him into management.  I had the good fortune of being able to work with him closely during a difficult period in our company’s history.  I could count on him to help me out with good humor, patience, and accuracy.  I remember how happy he was to get married; I remember he and his wife bringing their firstborn to the office for the first time.  What a proud husband and father!

His children will know only second-hand the decency of their father.  His wife will have the dual challenge of dealing with her own grief while adjusting to single parenthood.

The reaction at the company today was one of profound and sad silence, a stark contrast to our usual open-office constant buzz.  The silence was a tribute to a wonderful young friend and colleague.  As an organization, we lost a certain innocence today.

And we’re left wondering why such things happen.