A Eulogy, Of Sorts

My brother-in-law Jack passed away just over a week ago. His services were this week, so it has been a little bit insane around here.

We’ve had enough deaths in the family and extended family over the past few years where the rituals all seem very familiar, but not any less painful. Call the funeral home, schedule the Mass, pick the readings, set up the website, etc. It’s the business of death, and you’re on a timer. It’s ugly, and you don’t get a lot of time to reflect.

Jack was the one person in my collection of in-laws that I should have been closer to – and I don’t really know why I wasn’t. He lived only twenty or so miles away, he was an IT manager (like me – but his role was much more important), he was middle-aged (like me), he was married to a Pesce (like me.) The list goes on and on. I guess I didn’t make enough of an effort. Plus, he was always busy, helping someone somewhere – either at work or Church.

Something that occurred to me after he was buried this week – When my Mom-in-law passed away, I thought, “No more pain.” When my Dad passed away, I thought “No more arguments.” When Jack passed away, I thought “That should have been me.”

Not “could“, but “should.”

I’m not sure why I thought I should be dead instead of Jack. Possibly because I had a Doppler test that showed my carotid arteries were blocked 20 – 30% the day before he collapsed at work. I was told that nothing was done until you hit 70% or so. My doctor changed my blood pressure medication, and that was it.

So, I may have bad arteries, but not bad enough to fix.

Jack had a bad heart. The physical one. It was functioning at 45% at his last test, but his doctor didn’t think he needed a pacemaker. So, he had a bad heart, but not bad enough to fix.

I am a bit concerned about doctors and their advice now.

While Jack had a bad physical heart, his spiritual heart was larger than almost anyone I know.  He had at least three families – his biological one with his wife, daughters and relatives; his spiritual one, as he was a Deacon at his Church; and his business one, since he was a manager at Verizon.

All of his families came to pay their respects. In force.

It was selfish, I suppose, that one of my thoughts the day after he passed away was, “Please, Lord, don’t make me do another eulogy.” Luckily for me, there were plenty of people who had spent more time with him that stepped up to the challenge, from all of his families.

Not that I wouldn’t have done one. I would have talked about arena football and baseball and statistics and cruises and Mojitos, which were not covered at length by those who knew him from Church or work.

There are times you realize you are close to someone from a familial sense, but not close at all in another. Jack managed a test lab at Verizon – his team validated equipment before it was placed into service in the Verizon network. I finally found out what he did after he passed away. I started my career in telecom almost thirty years ago, helping run a small long distance company’s computer center. We had that in common, and we never talked about it, because I never found out about it.

If you don’t know what your relatives do, go find out. You may be surprised.

Jack and I had baseball in common, but you just don’t talk much during baseball games – and I’m not sure I ever heard him curse, and if a game was playing somewhere, it was probably also on the TV at Jack’s house.

My wife and I had season tickets to the Grand Prairie AirHogs for years, and we never got him to a game. I feel guilty and disappointed at the same time about that.

I will always be grateful to Jack that my wife knows as much about sports as she does, and it’s because he taught her by taking her to games while she was growing up. I have to explain very little to her, which has saved me a lot of time and stress.

I could have asked him how to survive an Italian-American wife, because if he could have explained that, it would have been one of the miracles he needs for Sainthood.

When I got promoted to manager at IBM last year, Jack was the one person around me that had a similar title and experiences – and he had been doing it for years.

Jack had a team that loved him (which was demonstrated at the vigil and funeral.) Jack was my best possible source of information and advice on how to survive Corporate America as a newly-minted manager – especially since all of the managers who worked with me were busy rearranging deck chairs during our latest reorganization.

I let that opportunity just pass me by. It just never occurred to me to ask Jack to go have a cup of coffee (or three) and have him explain how the world of management works.

I am really disappointed in myself for that.

So, now I can just hope Jack will watch me and guide me from above. I think a manager’s greatest accomplishment is to be genuinely missed by his team. Death is the most sudden way to leave the corporation, but I think every manager should aspire to having his team think, “What are we going to do now?” and not just “Who do we get stuck with next?” whenever he moves on to the next challenge, either here or in the next world.

Jack’s team is wondering what they are going to do now.

I’m wondering what I’m going to do now.

I miss you, Jack. Thanks for all the times you were there. The times you weren’t are on me.