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How Are You?

IMG_2205This was the question Jodie always asked me over IM.  We worked 3 time zones and 3,000 miles apart, but no matter what was happening, or how busy she was, Jodie asked me this question.

To the outside observer, Jodie may have seemed brash and uncaring and in my first interactions with her, I felt the same.  Like a mama bear, she protected and nurtured her clients and intruders (me), needed to be judged warily.  Our distance didn’t help and the fact I’d never met her in person, surely led me down the incorrect path of thinking.

I don’t know when I turned, but somewhere early in our time working together, I started to figure out Jodie.  Her love of triathlons, her absolutely unabashed joy and zest for life, whether her beer running club or off to burning man, Jodie was passionate.  Passionate about her hobbies, her work, her life, her fun.

Somewhere along the line after one of the million re-orgs we went through, I ended up as Jodie’s manager. I didn’t need to manage Jodie, she did her job, she knew her role, but I was always there, on the other side of the phone.  And there was a very tough spell at work when she needed it. We talked a lot. We talked about women in technology, misogyny in the workplace and how to deal with very difficult people.  It was a tough time, I don’t blame her, it was a tough situation.

She loved to celebrate the history of our company and had such great stories.  She was always in the thick of it, where as I was often just looking in from the outside in my remote office.  Over time I really learned to love Jodie.  I considered her my friend.

After my 18 months of living in New Jersey, I made an effort only to see a small handful of people before moving back to Oregon.  I didn’t know what awaited me, or whether I would ever been in the same industry again.  Jodie was on my very short list.  We had lunch somewhere in midtown, it wasn’t important.  It was good to see her, good to talk, we talked some about cancer, but it was mostly about life and living it.  I didn’t know in that moment it would be our last time together.

When I learned about Jodie’s death, I was so incredibly sad.  I trolled Facebook, flying past everything irrelevant and looking for more pictures of her and people to remember her.  It was the only thing I wanted to see.  I no longer cared about cute puppy pictures or funny sayings, I just wanted people to express their feelings about my friend.  As NPR announced the death of someone important, I thought it should have been about her instead.

I’ve always said there are two really astonishing things about Jodie.  She was the only person I have ever met who could truly multi-task.  She could send instant messages and talk as a contributor in a conference call at the same time.  I witnessed it many times (as the receiver of the IM) while she was talking.  It was extraordinary.  But the most important thing I learned from Jodie was to ask people ‘How are you?’.  We are all in a hurry, business has to get done, but there is always enough time to ask the question.  I’m not perfect at it, but I probably remind myself at least 3x a week to remember to ask someone how they are before I begin a conversation about business.  Every time, I think of Jodie.

Perhaps that is why I am so sad.  Even though we didn’t speak often, she was always with me, sitting on my shoulder as a reminder that everyone is important and deserves a little piece of our time.  Everyone deserves the respect of the people they work with and a little courtesy goes a long way.

I won’t be at her funeral tomorrow, but the next time I am in New Jersey, I will visit her grave, maybe bring her a pair of running shoes and a beer. Rest In Peace Jodie Kahn, I will miss you.


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