(Written February, 2005)

Six months ago, I was laid off from my job of six years. My company outsourced my whole department to India. Now I am competing with my old coworkers for the limited few jobs "out there."

While at a silent auction, some engraved acrylic plaques caught my eye. It was our grandson's first Christmas, and these "Birth Announcements" would be great gifts. When I took a photo to be engraved, the owner, Joe, and I started discussing the technical process of how the pictures were engraved. They engraved anything from baby pictures, to fire trucks, and mountain scenes on wood, acrylic or granite. He showed me the software, and engraving process. I realized I had most of the same software. Like an older brother, Joe discussed with me his dreams and interests. We both love the outdoors; he was an avid nature photographer. He talked about how he was growing his business, and what his plans were. He had a true passion for his work, and he cared for and looked out for his employees. When the cold snap hit in December, and it was below zero outside, he had his employees working on projects inside the shop, rather than send them outside to work in the frigid weather.

During our conversation, I realized I could do what he needed, someone to "clean up" the photos he would engrave. I brought back some samples of my artwork, and he liked them, so he gave me some photos of an antique Fire Truck to work on. I took them home, and worked on them for a couple of days. When I took them back, he liked them very much, and took out a piece of black granite he had been using for some testing. He engraved the picture on the granite right then and there. It was a fantastic feeling. I had put a lot of energy into this, and the final product was outstanding. Joe and I shook hands. He liked my work, and offered me a job. Over the course of a week, Joe spent several hours with me, quite a bit of time for a small business owner.

I would be able to work part time, doing graphic artwork, which was one of my passionate hobbies. Joe was going on vacation with his wife to Mexico. Once they were back, we would work out the final details. I was on top of the world. Now I would be able to do one of the things I enjoy most, for a living.

As I stood talking with my wife, she was flipping through the newspaper, and then it happened. Boom! It was as if I was seeing the Challenger explode. I couldn't catch my breath. My head was spinning, and when I closed my eyes, visions of purple, red and green colors sickened me even further, reminding me of the colors in a kaleidoscope. Waves of nausea swept over me like the gusts of a winter wind. All I could do was sit down, and put my head between my knees, and wait for the feeling to pass. Right there in black and white, was Joe's obituary. He died while on vacation with his wife. It was like an explosion hitting his family, and all I could do was watch in disbelief. They lost their father, husband and friend. My gut wrenched for them. My loss of a job was nothing in comparison. I was just a witness to the tragedy, like the cameraman, unable to do anything but offer my sincerest sympathies.

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