Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Warning: Depressing Post

[Edited between square brackets on 7/9/08]

At work on Monday, April 30th, we all got some horrible news. One of our fellow Opto-Mechanical Engineers had been killed in a car accident over the weekend. Myke Minbiole was 29 years old. He had been married less than a year, his wife Julie was also in the car but she was out of the hospital in a day or so. He had been working at [our company] since he graduated from Northwestern. I didn't know him well; I knew of him and he was always friendly. But I am closer friends with several of his close friends. The whole department was affected, and all of the others at work who had spent time with Myke were also touched.

We know a few details of the accident. It happened around midnight, as they were driving home from a visiting friends in downtown Chicago. His Pontiac Sunfire was t-boned on the driver's side by a 2007 Cadillac Escalade. Literally a hit-and-run: the occupants of the SUV (some reports said there were four) got out and fled on foot. We assume it had been a stolen vehicle. All around, a horrible stroke of bad luck, him being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Monday and Tuesday passed as if the whole day was one long moment of silence. Our usually lively room was quiet and somber. The obituaries were posted on doorways and you couldn't get around the building without the constant reminder that Myke was gone. The visitation was on Wednesday evening, and an amazing crowd showed up. Despite the traffic, we packed the funeral home, standing room only. I met Myke's parents, his widow Julie, his two brothers and their wives. All of his family was amazed at how many co-workers were there. Even a supplier had shown up to pay his respects. How could we not be? How could we not say goodbye?

The casket was open at the visitation. They had dressed him in the perfect shirt: a green graphic print t-shirt, with a tree/root motif growing from the neck and a few white shapes that could have been doves. I heard it was one of his favorite shirts. I also heard (but didn't check) that he was wearing a duct-tape accented belt. So many stories and memories were shared in that room. I really wish I had been good friends with Myke. It turns out he was an artist - a cartoonist even - who loved to create things - to fix things. He had co-authored a book on solid modeling as an undergrad with a professor. He had single-handedly won a robotics design competition in college. He hand-built a canoe (never used) while he was in high school. Myke was an amazing person. I truly regret not getting to know him.

The funeral was on Thursday, in the middle of the day. Most of the coworkers who lived downtown didn't come in to work at all. Us suburbanites rode on a company-sponsored shuttle bus to the Holy Name Cathedral for the service. A beautiful day in a beautiful church, sadness and comfort fought in my heart. I was so glad to hear that Myke was in God's hands. The uncles who spoke at the end of the service told us that Myke was the third young man to be taken from the Minbiole family this year. The most sadness I have ever seen was covering Julie as she followed her husband's coffin into and out of the church. I prayed for her, and I prayed for us all. God, help us through this horrible, stupid, meaningless loss. Help Julie and the Minbiole family adjust to being without...

The department manager led an expedition to the local pub after we got back to work. More stories were shared about Myke, but other topics got brought up as well. Management convinced Mykes best friend (and cubemate) to take Friday off. Myke's cube is preserved (not that anyone had taken anything) until Julie feels ready to come in and gather his things. On Friday they sent out an email authorizing people to charge personal time for any time we took off for mourning. Through the whole ordeal I kept being reminded that [our company] is a really sensitive and caring place.

Epilogue: on May 24th our location is going to participate for the first time in the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge 3.5 mile race in Grant Park. There will be a dedication to Myke before the race and our team shirts will honor him. I'm going to jog and walk (my first race!) with the goal of finishing in 45 minutes. (Secondary goal: not throwing up afterwards.) We have 147 people signed up for the team. I feel like making some more friends...


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