Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I am regularly amazed about how quickly "bad news" turns into just plain-old "news". On Monday mornings my group at work has a regularly scheduled meeting. The agenda includes announcements, reports of accomplishments and issues for the previous week, and overviews of project schedules. My group includes about 30 scientists and about 5 minutes before the start of the meeting, people begin to wander into the assigned room. As most of us have worked together for many years, there is quite a bit of comraderie and discussions of happenings from the weekend. This week's meeting started off with news that a technician from our group was found dead in his apartment. After a minute or so the available information was relayed and our group leader moved into the regular agenda for the meeting. From that point forward things proceeded along the regular same-old, same-old course. There were reports and discussions and laughter and business as usual. I was amazed that there was absolutely no remnant of the death announcement, no pall of sadness or loss over the proceedings.

As for me, I was left impacted by the loss. Michael worked in the lab space right below mine and I had to pass through his area to get to the stairs leading up to my area. I would say hello to him on my way and would regularly borrow tools from him. On Friday he came up to my area to look at some work that I had completed and we talked about my new process and we had an extended dialog about the work. When we were done he headed back off to his responsibilities and the last words that I said to him were, "Have a good weekend."

As of now, there has has been no news of the cause of death. However, I heard from one of the guys that worked more closely with him that he had been complaining of circulation problems recently. It is suspected that maybe he suffered a heart attack. When I went out to my lab after the meeting I lingered for a moment at his desk. Hanging on the wall were his reading glasses and a few personal items that brought him comfort. It was strangely quiet in that space and I felt uneasy about disturbing anything. His area was laid out as it always was, just waiting for him to come back. Goodbye Michael.