My heart felt heavy. My memories felt heavy too.
Then a friend and former co-worker poked her head out of the kitchen and welcomed me with a smile. We hugged. She hadn't seen me since the funeral.
One by one, the familiar faces of my former co-workers and supervisors appeared in the kitchen. They offered smiles and hugs. Every new face that entered the room dissolved a little of the heaviness in my heart.
They used to work with me. But they used to work with Rick too. I felt like a kid coming home from college to my family again.
Entertaining as ever, they welcomed me back into the fold with stories and humor.
How lucky I am to have such a wonderful work family at both my current job and my former job. They accept my grief and keep the moments flowing. How many people can say they could easily go back to a former job and have lunch? How many people would want to?
It's been almost 10 months since I left that job, but eating lunch with all of them again was like second nature. Same seats, same conversations, same comraderie.
That's how you know you're part of a real family - when you go back, it's like you never left.