We lost a colleague this week.
Not to a new job, a layoff, retirement. No, this one was to cancer, swift and devastating.
As far as I know, this is a first for this 30-year-old newspaper still in the bloom of youth.
We're a bit lost, too. We know intellectually that this is the bargain with life. We cover the end of the bargain as part of our jobs. And this is a small enough community that we often personally know the people involved in the inevitable tragedies, accidents and diseases that claim them.
Our loss is not at the level of Claudia Nelson's family loss. Still, it's as painful as can be and makes the grand pursuits on the job suddenly mundane by comparison.
Nothing like a death to make life more
Our work relationships can grow close, with plenty of similar family dynamics when you spend pretty much as much time awake together as with your loved ones at home.
Also, the work Claudia did - journalism - is not so much job as quest. You have to be a little bent, or touched, for this calling.
Short pay and long hours, um, are not exactly the appeal here. I would say the work is largely unappreciated in our society today, as well, even as we gobble up the stuff of journalism more ravenously than ever.
Journalists, though, have all the esteem of Congress.
That's because you don't know people like Claudia. When she came to work on the copy desk, I guarantee you that she didn't care a whit about what you in your ignorance might think of her. She simply was on a mission every shift to help produce the best edition of the Vail Daily we possibly could.
I understand that's how she approached motherhood and life in general, as well.
She was fierce about the quality of the work, but she was no ferocious soul. I saw her as a bastion of calm, sweet and patient in disposition, and always a twinkle in the eye that let you know nothing was escaping her, especially us in our more than occasional nuttiness.
That is to say, Claudia was the sane person thrust among the Wyricks, Rogers, Freuds and such. She was the eye of our little hurricane.
Her role in part was to save us from ourselves, to correct those misspellings and bits of Vail Valley history that maybe we didn't get quite right in our prose, to clean up our work enough that maybe you'd read a piece like this and think, "not bad; at least he thinks somewhat in complete sentences, uses the right words and can spell." Hah! If you only knew.
Claudia was our rock.
Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2920.