One of my coworkers, M.D., is a tall guy, probably 6’2, with a hearty laugh and nothing but a smile on his face. I quite literally cannot remember a single time when he was not smiling. When he comes in every morning, he makes his rounds saying hello to everyone.  When we had our department retreat a few weeks ago, M.D. wound up putting on a presentation about positivity.

He didn’t come in on Monday last week. I didn’t know this because I had jury duty. I think the first I knew there was something wrong was Thursday: technical services had their retreat the previous day, and M.D. hadn’t gone, and no one could get in touch with him. Had he been fired? Had he packed up and moved home to the Big Easy?

Yesterday, my team’s brief meeting included being informed that M.D. was, in fact, actually missing. That his emergency contact information was bad, and HR was involved (had they called the police?). But for us: Did any of us know him outside of work? Did we have an email or phone number that might not be in our database?

HR, of course, was quite silent on the point of police contact, and maybe they already knew by this point; but I didn’t, and copied down M.D.’s address from our donor database. When I got home, I called the Metropolitan Police Department to request a “wellness check.”

When I gave the address to the emergency operator, she made a strange noise, and informed me I needed to call the 2nd District police station directly. “Has someone already called a request on that address?” I asked. “I can’t tell you,” she responded, repeating to me that I should call the district station.

The officer at the station was confused and could provide me no information.  He referred me back to 911. I know now that, by this point, it was too late, and making the phone call at all was a rather moot point. But I didn’t call 911 back, resolving to get in with our HR director to determine if they’d called the police.

This morning, the associate vice president of our department called all of her people together into one of the conference rooms.  Or rather, most of the people in her department — tech services, of which M.D. was a member, was in a separate conference room having the news broken to them by their direct supervisor: in response to a missing person report filed by central HR, MPD went to M.D.’s apartment, gained access, and found his body.

I don’t know how or when he died, but it was presumably on or before Monday August 5th.

The conference room we were in when this news broke is relatively small, and we had close to 50 people packed inside. It was a pretty miserable experience, all told — it hit those of us who knew him well the hardest, particularly those us who sat near him — but grief counselors were on site, and we were all told that if we felt we needed to, we could go home. I stayed, one of my coworkers saw a counselor and dropped off some grievance forms, one of which said “Stick to a routine.”

But I can’t say I got much work done today.

Rest in peace, Mariano.

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