Saturday, November 2, 2013

In Memoriam

While visiting my alma mater a few weekends ago for Homecoming, I visited the library, as I had spent 4-6 hours per week there as a circulation desk assistant through my student work study program. While visiting with one of the full-time staff members, she told me that another full-time staff member had passed away over the summer. He was diagnosed with cancer in April and died in June. We reminisced that he was not a fighter.

Last weekend, I was reading through old blogs to review unresolved topics and I found a post that mentioned him and the positive impact he had on me during my college career. And so, this blog is my memorial to him.


When I was first hired to work at the library, I chose to work two nights per week so that my job would not interrupt my days and I would be able to utilize this time to complete assignments for the following days. My supervisor would be the reference librarian, RT, as he worked the evening shift. I was warned by a coworker that he was "somewhat difficult to get along with" and so I entered my job with this preconception in mind. Other students told me that they found RT intimidating, thought he was always grumpy, and so on. I quickly learned that these preconceptions were misconceptions.

When taking a smoke break, he would tell me that I was in charge in a playful tone, sometimes adding a comment about not letting the kids get rowdy.

On the rare occasion I went into the library when I was not working, he would smile and wave to me from across the large sitting area.

He would sometimes find me writing on this very site during my shift and we would talk about my chosen topic.

Other students who also knew the real RT would agree with me about his sweet nature and vast knowledge for the world of reference librarian-ing.

During one of my shifts during the next to last week of the Fall semester of my senior year, he found me making a variety of origami creations. This interaction struck me so much that I wrote about it in a blog that I published on December 6, 2011. That semester was particularly difficult for me. My emotionally abusive fiance-at-the-time was so controlling to the point that I believed that I hated my roommates, I discovered that he was a pathological liar in October, I had to work to rebuild friendships that had been damaged due to this unhealthy relationship, and I was taking 21.5 credits. In my post from December 6, 2011, I wrote about learning to be able to establish genuine empathic connections with others without being exploited (as had occurred with my ex-fiance). Two particular interactions on the same day (December 5, 2011) had prompted this lesson, the second of which was with RT, as mentioned above. I was making origami creations (modular boxes, kangaroos, elephants, and so on) and RT came to tell me that he was going outside for a smoke break. He commented on my origami and told me a story about a previous student worker who made hundreds of tiny paper cranes and placed them throughout the library as he re-shelved books. RT said that he probably still had at least one somewhere in his desk and that he liked mine before going outside. While he was outside, I finished making another one (I forget what it was), which I gave to him to keep after he came back inside. He smiled the biggest smile I had ever seen from him. My heart swelled. After that interaction, in addition to another interaction earlier that same day, I realized that I was still capable of establishing genuine empathic connections with others without being exploited.

RT was such an important part of my college career that I wrote him a thank you card when I graduated the following May. I told him that I enjoyed the brief conversations we had had over those three years and that I appreciated the connection we had, evidenced by brief interactions like smiling and waving from across the large sitting area.


What breaks my heart and makes me elated at the same time is that my origami creation and my thank you card were found in his desk when it was cleaned out after he passed away.

RT, you already know that you meant a lot to me, but I wish I could tell you again.

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