One of my former bosses passed away recently, after a long battle with cancer. I had trouble deciding if I should go to her memorial service. After all, I hadn't seen or spoken to her in almost ten years, since the day she fired me. While struggling with my decision, I asked some friends and relatives for their input. Most of them basically said, "Screw it... you don't owe her anything."
But here's the thing... the only beef I had with her was how she handled the situation in which I was fired. To this day, I'm still not sure exactly what happened. I have a theory or two though, and I believe my supervisor at the time was mostly responsible. As far as I knew, things were fine. Eight or nine months before my termination, another employee was let go. That poor girl never saw it coming, and when the subject was brought up in a staff meeting, I had said that if my job was ever in jeopardy, I hoped someone would let me know so I could stop or start doing whatever I needed to before it came to that. Later that day, my boss made a point of coming to my office to talk to me. She told me I was doing a great job and assured me that if I was ever in danger of losing my job, she would let me know so I could get back on track.
Well, that didn't happen. Several months later, exactly two weeks after my three-year annual review with my immediate supervisor, I was being called into the supervisor's office for a chat with her and my boss. That's when I was handed my walking papers. Out of the blue. No heads up, no warning, no explanation. My guess is that, during my annual review, my supervisor didn't appreciate me asking to take on more of the tasks that she usually farmed out to her freelancing pals, or maybe it was because I asked for a salary increase since I didn't get one with a promotion a few months earlier. Granted, my review had taken place the afternoon I had been rear-ended in an auto accident on my lunch hour, and I know I wasn't feeling as diplomatic as I should have been. I'm not good at ass kissing, and I have a really low tolerance for bullshit, and when I tried to argue my points with my supervisor, she clearly got her feathers ruffled, but said she'd talk to the boss about it.
At any rate, over the next two weeks, I didn't hear anything about my requests for more responsibility and a modest pay increase. I had planned to talk to my boss directly, but she was out of the office a lot those two weeks, and really busy when she was there. I remember telling my mom on my last Friday there that she was in the office that day, and that I was going to make sure I got five minutes with her. I never got that chance. All I got was the boot, though at least it came with a small severance package. I was devastated.
So that's why my friends and family wondered why in the hell I would even think about attending her service. That's also why I struggled with the decision. I never got a straight answer about why I was fired, and my boss didn't keep her word about warning me if losing my job was ever a possibility. To this day, I still don't know what I did to cause (or justify) my termination.
Aside from that, though, I really enjoyed my time in her employ, and had the opportunity to do some really great (and award-winning) work. When I first heard she was sick a few years ago, I hoped for her recovery, and tried hard to let go of any grudges. I had a lot of respect for her... she was a mover and a shaker in our city, and an innovator in our field. For that reason, I decided to attend her service. I just felt that I should be there to honor all the qualities I admired in her, and to pay my last respects despite the circumstances in which we parted ways.
There were tons of people there... so many that the main sanctuary of the church was full. I ended up in the fellowship hall with the overflow crowd. Not many overflow folks when I arrived, but even that hall filled up eventually. I picked a spot in the back row, and viewed the service on the big screen they had set up. It was a really nice service, with a few laughs and a few tears. It reinforced a lot of the fond memories I had of my former boss, and so I'm really glad I went. She was a phenomenal woman and she will be missed.
There was one part in the service where someone was saying that no one could ever question her integrity. That's when a petty thought flickered through my mind: "Well, I can." And even though that may be true from my perspective, I still feel a little bad about thinking it. That's not what I was there for and that callous thought surprised even me. I guess I haven't completely let go of that grudge. But I'm trying.
Rest in peace, Boss.