A colleague of mine has retired. I’ll miss her but am pleased for her. She’s going to get the chance to do some of the things that she’s always wanted to. Not that work was something she didn’t want to do but you know what I mean. She has been a long standing public servant and it’s now time for her to relax, or not but the choice is hers.
Her leaving speech was funny. She gave us a few anecdotes and told us about some of the things she wouldn’t miss as well as some that she would. A lovely spread had been put on for her and it was a nice send off.
Before it all got underway, however, I happened to be in the office where the function was going to be held. I was hot-desking and her colleagues were dressing the room with balloons (with internal LEDs no less) and banners.
The conversation got around to what we wanted when it was our turn to say goodbye. It would seem that there are two distinct camps. This is not a scientific survey yet it seems that there are those of us, me included, who would like very little fuss and would rather just slip away when it was all over. On the other hand there was the other end of the stick, with people who wanted to go out with a flourish and a bang.
There are probably two other groups, those who say they don’t want a fuss yet secretly harbour a desire to go down in history and those who say they want a do but are really embarrassed by the whole thing. I said it wasn’t very scientific.
The conversation got me thinking about funerals. Would you want a big one or small one? Would it matter if no one turned up? If you are dead would you know?
The point is though that funerals have very little to do with the deceased. Yes they are an integral part of the ceremony, it wouldn’t be taking place without them but the main point is that the living can come together, partly to remember the dearly departed and partly to remind themselves that they are a part of a wider clan that will continue to exist long after the body has failed.
Weddings perform a similar function. They are as much to do with the union of two people in matrimony as the coming together of two families into one.
So perhaps a gathering to say goodbye to a colleague is a way of the organisation reflecting on the departure of a team player as well as a reminder that the work continues and the whole is greater than the sum of the individuals. Retirement functions are as much about the person leaving as the people staying behind. They remind us of the brevity of our working life and that organisations borrow people. They are brought from somewhere else only to be passed on again after a certain time.
I may not be looking forward to my retirement do just quite yet though I can sense it on the horizon. When it does come I hope that there will some sort of send-off, if not for me, at least for my dear colleagues who will carry on with the good work.