I went to a funeral last week for someone only four months older than me. Kim Delgado, 31 years old and a former employee of mine, passed away only six weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She had been sick off and on since returning from a vacation to Aruba in November, and the doctors figured she just had some exotic strain of a virus that would clear up.
Over time it became evident that something more serious was going on. That’s the problem with pancreatic cancer, and the reason it’s the most lethal form of cancer – it looks like a dozen other things before it’s usually diagnosed.
The funeral was held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Plantersville, TX, more than 50 miles north of my office, and my office is already in North Houston. This was way out in the middle of nowhere, Texas. It was funny driving to the funeral. At one point at a stoplight in the small town of Magnolia, there were eight vehicles waiting: two Lexus sedans, two BMWs, a Jaguar, a black Dodge Intrepid (me), and two white Ford F-350 trucks. Guess which vehicles had driven in from Houston for the funeral, and which vehicles belonged to the town’s citizens who were merely coming in for lunch after working on the farm all morning.
The church was absolutely beautiful and the funeral service was well done. Somehow I don’t think I’d ever been to a Catholic funeral before, and for the most part it was pretty standard. One nit, though – the entire affair took more than 80 minutes, but less than two minutes was spent remembering, talking about, or otherwise focusing on Kim. It was basically a standard Catholic Mass, with a 90-second eulogy. It’s totally the family’s choice how they do things, so I don’t begrudge them that. But note to my own family: let’s spend some time sharing about the special person we miss at our funerals.
The most touching point was when Kim’s father spoke a very brief, 30-second message to his daughter’s remains (she had been cremated). He said, “Kim, we used to love going to movies together. Remember when we’d get into the theater early, then I’d leave to hit the concession stand? I’d always ask you to save me a seat. Well, that’s still what I’m saying. You’re in a better place, and you’re not sick anymore. I’m glad the pain is gone. And please save me a seat.”
Kim worked for me for about a year at my last company. It was typical high-tech corporate matrix organization – Kim reported to me although nothing in her job overlapped with anything in my job. But there was no other manager available for her, so I took her on. She was extremely sweet and we enjoyed working together. Well, not together since our jobs were so different, but we at least worked in awareness of each other.
We had at least one meeting face-to-face every day, but much of our working relationship took place through instant messaging (IM). I’ve never been a big fan of IM, but she liked it so I went with the flow. It actually worked out pretty well, because she could send me a quick question, and if I was busy on the phone or in a meeting, I could wait to answer until later.
We stayed on each other’s IM list after I left the company, and every few months we would have a quick online chat. Her avatar picture was a self-portrait of her face, so it was kinda neat to get a popup window on my screen every morning when she would log in to her computer at work (I get to the office earlier than just about everybody else).
It dawned on me a few weeks ago that I hadn’t seen her face pop up on my screen in a while. Now I know why.
31 years old. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on April 4. Died on May 26.
The priest mentioned the song, “Only the Good Die Young” during his comments. He said that was certainly true in Kim’s case. He also said that for some of us, it means we might be around for a long, long time.