Monday, October 18, 2004

Joe Beasley, 1936-2004

I got to work fairly early today, around quarter to eight, to get a head start on what's going to be a busy week. Getting there early also allows me forty five minutes of waking up time in grouchy silence before Joe's rock solid clockwork arrival at 8:30.

By 8:45, I was puttering around the lab, getting a few things started and planning out my day when I noticed Joe hadn't arrived yet. I wasn't overly concerned because Joe has a huge family and would often take a personal day to spend with them and he usually called, again like clockwork, at nine when either Fumiko or I would be in.

Around 9:15, my PI (primary investigator, a geeky science title), Charles, comes in a rather agitated manner for the early hour and asks, "Did you see Jeff?"

Jeff Silverstein is the Head of Anesthesiology at Sinai and, technically, Joe's boss although Joe tends to do more work for us on a regular basis.

I replied that I had noticed Jeff stop in and go through Joe's desk but he hadn't said anything to me and, honestly, I was still puttering about when he had stopped in.

Charles looked at me with an expression I hadn't seen from him before, a strange mix of sadness and bewilderment. "Then you probably haven't heard. Joe passed away over the weekend. Heart attack."

I was floored. Joe was 68 years old but looked fifty. He did have hypertension but knew of the problem and saw his doc regularly. Last Friday, at 5pm, like clockwork, he said "Alright folks, goodnight."

I said goodbye with a casual wave of my hand and it was the last thing I ever said to him.

Joe was practically an institution at Sinai, working here for (I believe) 30+ years. He was someone who knew everyone, everyone, from secretaries in departments you never heard of before to the maintenence crew that would come by once in a blue moon. I you ever had a question about how to get something done in Sinai, you would ask Joe. He would then wander over to his filing cabinet, open a drawer, and pull out exactly the number, or code, or name that you needed, all labeled and dated from the last time it was used. He was one of the best workers we had in the lab and one of the best people in the hospital, period.

The oddest (and most frightening) thing about this whole day is the sheer randomness of it, something that has weighed on me all day long, following me around like a dark shape you can only see out the corner of your eye. I think everyone in the department took stock of themselves today as they pondered this. I certainly did.

So now I'm sitting here, thinking on the future of my Mets, listening to the fate of the Red Sox, trying to root for them, and all I can think about is Joe.

But I also think that if Joe were here, reading this, looking at the message I was trying to draw from today's events, he would come up with a totally different interpretation. And I can see him speaking it, smiling, chuckling, in his own casual comfortable drawl:

It just goes to show, anything can happen.

So right, Joe, so right. Thanks for all your advice, knowledge, and friendship.

Go Sox.


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