Happy Birthday, Jean. (updated)

Photo Credit: http://www.twincities.com

We held a party at work last night in honor of our friend Jean. Jean had her birthday on Friday and we knew it was something we needed to honor.

Jean has worked with our company for over 35 years. She just had her anniversary celebration a few weeks ago. I didn’t get a chance to go, I was wired up with electrodes for a sleep study. But I can proudly say I helped plan the menu. She picked all sorts of great things from Mayslack’s in Northeast Minneapolis. Over the past year or two we’ve gotten their roast beef sandwiches and onion rings on occasion. She liked the food and since the company was throwing her a party she got her choice of eats. I’m sorry that I didn’t get to attend. But she saved me a piece of carrot cake and it was there for me a few days later when I came back to work. Jean was that kind of woman – looking out for her friends.

Yes, was. Jean was killed in a traffic accident on Friday morning. After a long week of work she left to visit her family in Iowa. Right around sunrise she ran a stop sign and was killed by a truck. I feel badly for the truck driver. It wasn’t his fault but that’s a hard thing to live with in the end. Nobody else was hurt in the accident, Jean was alone in the car.

And that was her birthday – she was born into the Kingdom of Heaven that morning right around Sonrise.

And so we celebrated last night. Everyone on our shift has a good heart. Some have stronger faith than others, some kind of at the edges of believing. Some still seeking. But all of them good people. And we wanted to say goodbye to a friend. Like all families we’re a bit dysfunctional. Sometimes we love each other and sometimes we squabble. But we were unanimous in our affection for Jean. So the group, small enough to count on two hands, gathered in the dark of the night to talk about a friend and remember her.

Midnight shifters are a different group. Kind of stand-offish, a bit contemptuous of the “day-weasels,” and certainly sleep deprived. But most of all we are we. It’s a family. We don’t just work together like most people. It’s hard to explain to day workers but the crew that comes in night after night and gets the heavy maintenance done is a close knit group. We often have coworkers on the day shift we’ve never met. They’re just names on the department phone list even after years of having the same bosses. Most of us have worked the shift for years out of preference. We actually bid to the shift. Our friends are on the shift. We don’t hit the bars after work (well, most of us don’t) or go bowling. But our lives are intertwined because of the social isolation and unique nature of our jobs.

We had hot-dogs, Polish sausage, blue corn tortilla chips, chili, and all the fixings. We cooked it in crock pots. Jean would have liked that: she introduced us to crock pot liners. And she was a good cook. Whenever we had a food night she’d really go out of her way to bring something special. There were no store-bought cupcakes from Jean. It was always top-shelf stuff she made herself. For desert we had birthday cake because while we won’t see Jean again on this Earth, we wanted to celebrate her life and her arrival in Heaven. During the night her friends and coworkers for the past three decades cleaned up her cube. They lovingly packed up her possessions and separated the work stuff from the personal stuff.

Jean leaves behind kids and grand kids. And at least one coworker who’s monitor isn’t working so well this morning. The darned thing is all blurry and it’s making my nose run.

I’m going to time this to post on Monday in the evening so that all of her coworkers will have had a chance to find out the news before this goes public. God speed, Jean. We love you and will miss you.

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