Yesterday, Mai surprised me once again when she emailed everyone that it was her last day at work. I was catapulted back to that time when I learned that she was leaving...and made me feel this.
The team hastily arranged for a farewell party for her. Everyone from the team was there, including a few others who have worked with Mai. It was when I saw these people, especially those from outside the team who wished to be part of the surprise that the sadness gradually began to fade and quickly replaced by that warm feeling of pride that stems from knowing a person who has touched so many people's lives.
I was moved by all the farewell messages and fond memories everyone shared, particularly Tom's. He said that the first time he met Mai was when she was 18 years old. He remembered Mai saying she wanted to study in the Philippines, learn the culture, and learn the language. He said he saw the dream in her eyes. And Mai lived that dream. She has done exactly what she said she would do and she did it extremely well.
Ten years after, Tom said she met Mai again. This time they meet as colleagues and they have been working and learning together until last year when Mai decided to leave. Once again, Tom said he sees the dream in Mai's eyes.
It is easy to dwell on the sadness of someone leaving especially following a stream of partings in the team. It is not easy to let go of people who you care about. These are people I have worked with, created memories with, grown with, and explored life with. But behind the sadness is also that pride to have known people who have the courage to follow their heart and embrace their dreams.
Mai will be sorely missed. But at the end of the day, I can sleep better at night knowing that there are people like her out there who quietly makes a difference in this world. I draw strength and courage from the fact that someday, I can be like her.