The Appearance of the Black Wreath
Last night, I barely slept a wink. A family member was due to have a serious surgery today and I was worried sick about it. This morning, that surgery was postponed. This wasn’t the worst of the news this day held for me.
As I got off the elevator in my office, our receptionist asked if I’d read my e-mail. I had not. He called me over. I knew bad news was to follow. I was not prepared for how bad it was.
An attorney in our firm died this morning. Today. He was the managing partner when I was hired (11 years ago today was my first day with the firm). He called and gave me my offer. I sat in the office next to his for 4 years and learned to understand his fast-forward thinking without even meaning to. Clerks would get assignments from him and I’d “translate” what he was asking of them. He was so intelligent and so clear a thinker that he’d usually be three steps ahead of anyone speaking to him on a legal matter.
He’d been ill and keeping his health issues rather private. But I am certain he did NOT see this coming this soon.
He was 67.
This afternoon, the black wreath was taken out of the closet and his name and dates of birth and death pinned to it.
I work in a large firm that has been in business over one hundred years. The black wreath is usually displayed as a show of respect for the deaths of the retired attorneys.
This is the third time it’s been used for active attorneys.
I was in shock most of the day. But his closed door, his empty reserved parking space and the black wreath all settled in.
And now I am just sad.
He once told another attorney in our office that in his estimation the practice of law is a privilege we don’t all have. He’d do it for the nobility of it even if he didn’t get paid, he’d said. He meant it, too. Knowing he worked until the bitter end is satisfying. It’s just what he’d have wanted.
But it sucks for the rest of us.