A friend at work asked me the other day why I was wearing a suit when it is far from required in our office, which has always subscribed to the casual, but smart, dress-code. My answer was my quite customary allusion to the fact that, should I not don the suit from time to time at work, it will only be paraded at weddings and funerals, and since I don’t receive many invitations to the former it will lead a terribly melancholic existence, short of the occasional colourful visit to the dry-cleaners.
On this day, however, it has been spared that role. Today we said farewell to Donut, and a hall full of hoodies he would have felt suited his send-off better than the crispest of trouser-creases or the blackest of ties. My preparation last night was spent making sure that my BMW was the cleanest I could make it, since anything less would be disrespectful to such an avid enthusiast, and rooting through my drawers to find the SpinVox Pegasus polo shirt, from the May 2007 launch effort of the same name. I arrived at the company a month later, but I felt the need to carry upon my shoulders a representation from the many colleagues that I reached out to from those years past that were not able to make it but whose lives he touched, as well as carrying the added significance that this belonged to Barry, another great friend who was taken from our SpinVox family too soon, and who I miss daily as the Incident Manager who taught me the ropes when I started work in the NOC.
Reflecting on this a moment, we’ve lost far too many in our small family in such a short time.
Even after working with Donut for nearly 9 years, two things didn’t change from the early days up to recent times, the first of those being my careful approach to troubling him with my queries or issues at work. In every organisation there are a few individuals who, far from being unapproachable as a result of their personality or a directive from them to not be bothered, through their vast knowledge on every subject surrounding their work leave me with a sense of awe that makes me question whether the paltry query I have for them is consuming too many cycles in their work schedule, their time being a commodity so valuable you could build a world economy around it.
Which leads me to the second thing, and that is his ever-selfless investment of that time. All my reservations around disturbing him were blown out of the water the moment I would drop him a line, because no matter how busy he was he would always make the time to help me out, answer the questions that only he could answer, or point me in the right direction as I bounced ideas off him while he juggled the myriad of tasks landing on his plate from all directions, and I know I’m not the only one who has been on the receiving end of his generosity in that regard, and never have I heard him utter or type a grumbling as a result of anyone’s demands.
One of the most recent memories I have of Donut, not even a month before his untimely passing, was that in the middle of a late night incident conference bridge I shared with him and others in ops, for which he had to cancel his dinner arrangements with friends I might add, he took the time out of troubleshooting a complex DNS issue to ask whether I was going to put any more videos online that he enjoyed so much, be it of my creative endeavours or my girls mucking around, after which he started playing songs like Nyan Cat or the Muppets’ Mannah-Mannah down the phone line, the latter of which we played at Sonic’s memorial.
While I sit here deeply saddened at Donut’s departure, whose real name of Darren I should probably mention at this point I was blissfully unaware of for the better part of my first three years at SpinVox, there is a smile amidst the tears at the very clear memory that I will keep with me of this call and the laughter (and Mannah-Mannahs) that we shared.
At today’s memorial the many facets of his compartmentalised persona shone through the beautiful tributes from his family, his friends, and others who worked closely with him over the years, further cementing in my mind the thought of a donut-shaped void that has been left in this world that will not be filled, and while our time in each other’s company was far too short and mostly through exchanges over IRC and phone, it was an honour and a privilege to have served in this life alongside a man whose heart and mind of gold I can only aspire to and not reach, and to whom no justice through words can ever be done.
If there is one comforting thought to be gained in this season, it is that should we reach heaven someday it will have the most solid IT infrastructure the angels can offer, since Donut will make sure it meets his rigorous standards.
At the wake, Donut’s father pointed out a spread of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, delivered specially by the company, in his four favourite varieties for guests to tuck into until they eventually run out, and although I have been making every possible effort to keep sugar out of my diet recently, there was no way I was going to turn down the opportunity to sink my teeth into a Cookie Dough doughnut in his honour, because at the end of it all life is just too short to worry about such things.
Donut’s life certainly was too short, but just like his IRC status, he hasn’t logged out.
He’s just away.