Finding the Words to Say Goodbye

Did I ever tell you about the time I was a software tester?

It’s kind of a funny story the way I tell it.

I was working for a corporate travel management company. I loved my job but didn’t love the company and was, of course, looking for a way to make more money. My friend and co-worker asked me if I was interested in becoming a software tester for Ceres, a software company across the hall. She had knowledge of the job opening because her friend was the receptionist.

The only problem was that the way she pronounced “Ceres” sounded more like “Sears.” So I applied fully thinking I was applying for a job with corporate Sears. It didn’t matter that the only Sears around was at the local mall. I thought maybe there was some room in the back that did corporate work.

Yeah. I was young and dumb.

This was during the dot com boom and most technology companies were hiring anyone with a brain and a pulse. Needless to say, I was hired and began a long and illustrious career in the high tech sector.

I had no experience, no knowledge, and certainly no training. I’m just lucky I had my brain to rely on. It was the kind of company that gave new meaning to the term “turnover.”

Because it was a software company with a lot of proprietary secrets, we had a code lock on the door. Anytime we went to the bathroom, we had to enter a 6 digit code to get back into the office. It wasn’t unusual to come back from lunch and find that your 6 digit code didn’t work. That usually mean that someone had been “released” from their responsibilities. And we usually breathed a big sigh of relief when it wasn’t us.

It was quite a while before I felt confident in the fact that I was around for the long haul. But it wasn’t without a big learning curve.

I’ll admit that my naivete only helped me in the job. I’d be curious about a part of the software application and set off to ask the developer. Other testers warned me. Don’t bother them! Developers need to be left alone!

Instead, I thought, if they want me to test their code, they need to help me understand what’s supposed to be going on.

So I walked into the offices and asked my questions. And I think I earned a little respect and started the beginning of a somewhat beautiful relationship.

Developers write code. Testers test it. I don’t write code. Never have, never really want to. But I had to understand the logic of developers to really understand what was going on.

Mike was one of my very favorite developers. My very favorite.

He was stereotypical of most software developers. Extremely bright and very quirky. But he broke the mold in that he appreciated testers. He appreciated people that could break his code. He appreciated having a conversation and debate about how something should or should not function. And what set him apart from other developers was that he respected what we did.

He was friendly, approachable, and very willing to teach and to learn.

I started working with Mike in 1999 when I started with the company. He was there in 2000 when we saw our little start-up company acquired by a large tech firm. Many people earned large paychecks as a result but he was a conservative spender. I paid off my credit card debt and bought a bicycle. He paid off his house.

He eventually traded in his 1980-something Mustang for a Nissan 380ZX. I eventually bought a house and some furniture but he was still Mike. Same old, same old.

A few years later our little ol’ company was turned upside down by the big corporate world. We were both still there in 2004 when most of our friends and colleagues were let go and te work was outsourced to India.

Mike stuck it out while I transferred to another department. I just couldn’t stomach it. And a year or so later, I left.

It’s 7 years later and to the best of my recollection, it’s been 7 years since I’ve seen Mike. I’ve changed careers and moved out of state and life moved on for both of us.

And then, I got an email completely out of the blue on Saturday. It was yet another former colleague that I hadn’t heard from in years telling me she had some news she’d like to share and asked me to call her. I couldn’t imagine what the news was but since it was 10 minutes until dinner time, I decided to wait to call. And in that time, my mind raced and created a million different stories.

I called after dinner and left a message and then she returned my call shortly thereafter. It was about Mike. It was about Mike and an unknown illness and hospice care. Without saying it, she told me that Mike was terminal. That his time was short and that treatment wasn’t an option.

And then I was left to process that information. I haven’t seen or worked with Mike in 7 years. I’ve since moved out of state. And yet, here I was with this news. Wondering what to do.

I asked for his email address and his physical mailing address. I told my husband (who also knew Mike) and my friend who was visiting. And when they asked me what I would do since our history was so distant, I couldn’t help but answer.

I’d like to think that I had a big enough impact on someone I worked with 7 years ago that they would want to send me a message of support and love, even after all this time.

And that’s exactly what I intend to do. I don’t know how to find the right words. Or even how to say them. But I clearly believe in the power of words and I only hope I can find the right ones.

  • Natalie P.

    I couldn’t even imagine that type of letter. I would not knowwhat to say…:-(

  • Tinker Belle

    I think it will put a smile on his face. 

  • Leigh Powell Hines

    This is such a well-written story, and so many can relate.  We all have relationships like this in our professional lives.  So sorry about how this one is ending. 

  • Colleen (Mama Pants)

    Read this last night and I couldn’t comment then. This brought up so many emotions in me. I recently lost an old friend to cancer and I hadn’t spoken to him in years. But instantly  went through those feelings of not knowing what to say or do. Once you break that seal though and start writing to him, it will come. I think people want to know how you feel. They want to know that their life meant something to yours. I think it’s great that you will write to him. And I am so sorry that you are losing an old friend.

  • Dana K

    Oh, Fadra. I’m so sorry for mike and for you. Don’t let the time or the distance stop you from saying goodbye. Let him know what an impact he has had on you, even with years in between your last interaction.

    This post is wonderful. You said so many meaningful things about Mike here. You can use this as your starting ground.

  • Rose’s Daughter

    I think that you writing him and telling him everything you said in this letter, will make his day.

  • Colleen – amadisonmom

    So beautifully told.

    I think in writing to him, you just need to think about what you would like to hear.  What if the situation was reversed?  What words would you appreciate hearing from Mike?

  • Jill Krause

    Your words will certainly mean so much to him, Fadra. And YOU write beautiful words. 

  • Mamaintheburbs

    I’m sorry to hear about your friend. You write so beautifully I’m sure whatever you say will lift his spirits.

  • Mrs. Jen B

    I’m so sorry to hear of this. And I don’t know what I’d say, but I know that the right words always come from the heart and that he’ll appreciate them.

  • MommyLisa

    I think you will find exactly what you need to say – he will be happy to read your words. 

  • Good Day, Reg People

    Write from the heart. When things come to that point, we want to know that we somehow had an impact on someone’s life.

    It’s all we have in the end, to know we mattered. That our existence mattered. 

  • Positively Pampered Patty

    Fadra one of the most beautiful gifts we have the privilege of is saying goodbye.  Most people shy away from it, not realizing what an opportunity they have within their grasp.  I know whatever you write it will have an impact on your friend and give him one more beautiful moment to cherish.  People fail to realize is you also give yourself something too.  Closure.  So sorry to hear the news, but as we say in French.  Bon courage.  xoxo

  • Andrea

    Wow.  So sorry to hear about your old friend.  What a powerful story, and such a great opportunity to reach out and tell Mike how he has impacted your life.  He will love to hear from you.  I know that you will say something perfect! 

  • Erin Lane

    Yes, write the letter.  It will mean so much.

  • Eddy

    Fadra: Very moving post… and definitely reach out. People remember for sure, more than we all think. I just had a childhood friend connect to me on LinkedIn who i knew in junior high school. He probably thinks I don’t remember him but I do. And all people need at times is to know someone cares. No need for the perfect words

    p.s. And to think I just stumbled on your blog while reviewing all the biz cards from BlogHer 12 and trying to selfishly find blogs to partner with for my business. Your post just made me remember what’s more important in life!  

  • dipaolamomma

    I think that when someone has a deep impact on your life that connection knows no time, nor distance. You carry it with you through the years and across the miles. My time in the military taught me that there is a unbreakable bond that we share as part of the human condition that needs to remembered, especially in times of need.

  • Yingji

    Dear Fadra,
    Thanks for sharing the news. Its so sad. Mike was such a good person. He will be remembered.