18 March 2010

R.I.P. Reilly

As I scurry about my day-to-day life, it's easy to be mired down by the challenge of the hour. Honestly, I've never before experienced a time like this where the highs and the lows come at me rapid fire like aliens in a video game. Many days it's a struggle to keep everything in context. Like all of us, there is usually something that comes along to jolt us out of our stupor. For me, it was learning that an old friend had died from colon cancer at age 49.

Reilly and I worked together in Seattle at Rainier Bank. Actually, I was his supervisor, but we were the same age and went to school together at the University of Washington. His fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, was next door to my sorority, Alpha Chi Omega.

Reilly was one of the more interesting people I've met in my life. Scathingly intelligent. Curious about everything. Thoughtful. Introspective. Funny.

By day we were college students in the Greek system, drinking beer, writing papers, drinking beer, studying for exams, drinking beer, chilling between classes, attending football games, hanging out at exchanges, and drinking beer. By night, we worked as VISA card collectors, calling people to encourage them to make payments on their past due accounts. The art of persuasion. We cajoled. We begged. We were evaluated based on our results and the team was quite competitive.

At our relatively young ages, the experience gave us a unique opportunity to peer into the gritty reality of people living off of credit cards, dealing with unemployment, divorce, illness and misfortune. During breaks we'd share stories about the crazy excuses people gave, or the sad stories we'd hear about why customers had fallen behind on their payments. It was like a sociology or psychology class. Reilly always seemed to be more sensitive to the hardship people were enduring.

After we graduated, I lost touch with Reilly. I'd hear about him occasionally from friends. He went on to attend law school at the University of San Diego. He was a partner and trial attorney, litigating , writing and speaking on habitability, personal injury, employment and business claims. He married and had three daughters. Reilly was a life-long athlete, excelling at track and field, baseball, skiing, golf, tennis and was coach to his daughters' soccer and baseball teams. A gifted musician, he performed in bands as guitarist and lyricist and produced and recorded four CDs of original music.

It's been roughly 25 years since I last spoke to Reilly, yet learning of his death hit me hard. There's no understanding why his life was cut short. He was a good soul. A quality person. I treasure the time I got to spend with him while he was here. His last gift to me is reminding me not to take one moment of life for granted. R.I.P. Reilly.

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