When someone you love dies, your mind is a blur. One minute, you're fine. You feel wonderful about the time you had together. The passing is for the best. He didn't suffer.
The next minute, you're a mess. You're walking through a store or surfing the web or sitting in your dentist's waiting room and you burst into tears. The emotions are so close to the surface, you can't predict when they'll let themselves out.
So, as I write this, my mind is in that blur. It was in that same blur this whole week, as I attended the Shop.org Annual Summit. While I was trying to learn about new advancements in e-commerce, mobile and multi-channel retail, I was spontaneously and unpredictably moved to tears, knowing that my cherished friend Hank, home in Seattle, was about to die.
Hank lost his year-long battle with kidney disease yesterday afternoon, while I was at 30 thousand feet flying home. I will always regret that I was not there for him at the end of his life, but I am grateful that my husband was with him and that he did not have to suffer a moment longer.
What does losing my cat have to do with e-commerce? Well, actually plenty.
Hank came to live with us 14 years ago. That equates almost exactly to when my e-commerce career began. He saw me through the triumphs of many site re-designs, re-platforms, new feature releases and executive presentations. He was there when I got promoted and there when I made bad career choices, and, I might add, he always, always instinctively knew when to jump up on my lap or get in bed with me when I was sick, sad or needed support. As anyone with 14 years of ecommerce experience can attest, I needed plenty of support.
While I was building my online retail career, Hank built his as a spokescat for the Seattle Humane Society, his alma matter. Hank's photo graced the pages of the Humane Society Calendar, and his portrait appears on the Seattle Humane Society adoption van, the Max Mobile.
But it was in the last 4 years that Hank and I became business partners. When I started my e-commerce consulting practice and began working from home, I was finally able to see what Hank's life was like during the day, and become a part of it. It was a wonderful life. He played, slept in the sunny spot near my desk, and watched the birds outside my office window (Hank especially loved the hummingbirds that have since become my company mascot). He usually spent a large portion of the afternoon sitting on my lap as I worked at the computer and spoke with clients on the phone.
When Hank was diagnosed with his illness a year ago, I promised him that we would have fun together every day. Hank lived up to his end of the bargain better than I did, and always showed up at my side to be sure that we spent time together, no matter how busy I was. Towards the end, he became increasingly aggressive about interrupting my day by straddling the keyboard to keep me from typing or plopping himself down on the pile of my most important paperwork. I always gave in to taking a break, and I am glad that I did.
I am not sure what the remainder of my e-commerce career will be like without Hank; right now I can't imagine it. As I sit here, with an empty lap and full access to my keyboard, a hummingbird is perched on the flowerpot outside my window. We are both wondering where Hank is, and hoping that where ever that might be, that he is as happy and grateful for the life we had together as I am.