Dear Heather

I think about you whenever I hear the song “Dear Heather” by Leonard Cohen, and I wish you could walk by me again with a drink in your hand. I bought this CD as a Christmas gift to you in 2005, and I was so happy to have found this special gift for you.

It has been a month since you passed away, and to write about you is the only way I can keep my memory of you fresh. I am scared that the memory of you will fade away over time. I wish I took more photos with you during those precious moments, recorded the songs that you sang while you were happy, videotaped your last visit to my home, and saved the voice messages that you left me months ago.

I feel attached to you not just because you were the one who offered me my first permanent job in Canada, but of the way you showed your care and thoughtfulness. You were a genuinely GOOD person that is so difficult to find these days, and perhaps too good to be true in this world.

I remember especially these occasions:

In 2000, you fought for my extra salary raise after you had learnt of my part-time study towards a bachelor’s degree at York University and that a claim for educational allowance was rejected. I learnt from this particular case that you were a good boss who honestly cared about your staff. You even felt sorry that you could not get me a better raise. I remembered you said that “a thousand dollars may not make much difference, just about $50 each month, but that is the best I can do …” I knew that I was ‘touched by an Angel’.

During the Great Eastern Seaboard Blackout of 2003, you were the one who made sure every staff member was being taken care of. You asked around and said that you could give ride to three, and I was lucky to be one. There was also a relatively new male staff member who preferred to stay in the office (probably overnight), but you showed your concerns, and did not want to leave him behind. You finally convinced him to join us, and he became the sixth passenger of your sedan. You almost ran out of gas at the last stop outside my house, but you were so calm. I especially enjoyed that wonderful night: we could see a lot of stars in the sky, and the wind was gently blowing through our hair. God was with you, and you finally got enough gas back home.

During a staff event in the summer of 2006, my husband got into a car accident at the parking lot of the venue. I asked around for help, and you were the only one to raise your hand immediately. You were always ready to offer help to people around you. You stayed there with us under the sun (over 30 degrees Celcius) for more than half an hour, and offered us your best advice.

I also remembered the dinner that we had at the Sushi Man Japanese Restaurant on the last work day before Christmas in 2007. I was surprised to find out that you actually liked sushi and salmon sashimi too. I never had the chance to chat with you for 5 hours straight before that, and I really enjoyed the several gatherings thereafter: the extended lunch buffet at the Mandarin over the Christmas holidays of the same year (2007) when we talked till they started setting up for the dinner buffet; the brunch at the midtown Pickle Barrel where you introduced me to their all-day breakfast menu; the lunch at Fire and Ice where I was teased by you for choosing a platter called “What the Boss Eats”. I forgot what we chatted about in details, but I would always remember your hearty laughs, and all these precious moments with you.

In January 2008, the sign of sadness emerged. I was so shocked to learn about your illness, and that the date for your return might well be in the indefinite future. I had prayed that you would eventually recover, and come back. You asked my husband not to disclose the truth about your sickness (your being diagnosed with cancer) to me so soon. You knew me oh so well, and you did not want me to be too upset about your health conditions. I was mad at you sometimes: you cared more about other people than for yourself. You still acted as a reference just about a week before your death. You asked to stop the dosage of morphine which eased your pain, so that you could have a clear mind to express your good remarks for a former staffer of yours. You must be very pleased that she finally got the job. This was actually a testimonial of YOU, Heather. I have said to you once and again that I was so lucky to have you as my boss and mentor. I feel honoured to be a friend of you, and treasure the personal relationship that has built up over the last two years.

I know that God is with you. I will wave my hand to you whenever I see the stars in the sky. I will pray for your family. It’s time for us to move on and stop grieving. Life is too short.