In my faith, when someone dies the bereaved observe a period of mourning for 7 days. During those days, people come and offer their support while the mourner sits on a low stool and does… not much of anything.
They tell stories and shares memories of the deceased. Sit in the quiet between visitors. Read a little, but nothing intense or overly-engaging. Allow themselves to be cared for by others.
Seven days to grieve, or re-group, or sulk, or meditate. To allow their world to be shattered. To begin to see a way that world might re-assemble itself. Seven days to be removed from the pace and the pressure of the outside “regular” world.
And then the mourner “gets up”. They take a walk around their block as a sign to the community that they are – at least on some basic level – ready to rejoin the world.
I am talking about this because last week, my fellow SolarWinds Head Geek Lawrence Garvin passed away. I – along with many of his friends and coworkers – have been struggling to come to grips with it.
In the strictest sense, my connection to Lawrence Garven is tenuous at best. It was just 6 months ago when I met him face to face. Because we’re both out of towners, most of our interactions were limited to instant message, email, and phone unless we were shooting episodes for SolarWinds lab. In the strictest sense, Lawrence Garvin was no relation to me
But “in the strictest sense” doesn’t take into account Lawrence’s enormous heart, or the deep friendship he extended with each handshake. From that first moment, he made it clear he was my brother in Head Geekdom.
Of course, he was everyone‘s big brother – the one who’d already been there, done that, got caught, made bail, and is now looking at you with a scowl of I-know-what-you’re-planning-and-don’t-THINK-about-it.
That was part of what made him so special. You were in his circle as soon as he laid eyes on you. That didn’t mean he automatically loved everything about you. But he noticed you.
And just as quickly that scowl would disappear and his face would light up with delight as he dug into a really juicy discussion with you – anything from cable signaling to programming to cowboy boots to whiskey.
In that moment you not only had your big brother’s approval, you had his respect. Conversations with Lawrence could last an hour. The confidence those conversations instilled could last a week or more.
Lawrence was one of those IT Pros that made other people want to be in I.T. And if you already were in I.T., a talk with Lawrence affirmed your choice and at the same time he showed you, by example, the kind of I.T. pro you should aspire to be.
The sense of loss I have now is completely out of proportion to the time I’d known him. But friendship – and the loss we feel at moments like this – have nothing to do with the passage of time.
When a great scholar dies, my tradition teaches that the loss can be transformed into something positive if we only realize that the community has lost not just the person, but also the gifts they brought to this world. If we attempt to improve ourselves by emulating those same strengths – attempting to fill the gap left by their absence, we honor their memory.
It’s been seven days since my friend died. I’m ready to “get up”. I’m ready to figure out how I can keep a piece of Lawrence’s spirit alive within our community.
May his memory be for a blessing.