This past week has been emotionally draining and heart-breaking as the Newtown, Conn. media coverage continues and families mourn their losses. In Iowa, we’re cherishing the laughter of children, hugging our loved ones a little closer and understanding mortality is truly day-by-day.

On the personal front, sad memories are resurfacing as I mentally relive what it means to have death unexpectedly destroy the lives of innocent families and loved ones. For many Americans, two dates quietly slipped by unnoticed: April 15, 2000 and Nov. 15, 2010. But for the families of Jeff Eaton, GuideOne’s president of Consumer Services; Shelia Myers, Kum & Go’s clerk in Humboldt; and Vicky Bowman-Hall, a Wessels Oil Company employee in Algona, those days will never be forgotten.

Jeff Eaton was killed as a result of a skydiving accident in Vinton. Sheila Myers’ and Vicky Bowman-Hall’s deaths were due to a senseless act of violence during a pair of shocking store robberies. My heart still aches for Debbie and Megan Eaton, for Roger Myers and his daughters, Robin and Mandy, and for the Bowman-Hall family.

Like the community of Newtown, the pain of sudden death also gripped family members, employers and employees alike. It unexpectedly burst on to the scene, slowly marked the weeks and then permanently settled into the consciousness of those who survived the aftershock.

It’s difficult to describe the agonizing feeling that occurred when I was notified about these three sudden deaths, especially when such caring people were taken away with so much of their lives left unlived.

Yet, it also was a time when the workplace became more compassionate as people sought to comfort grieving families and colleagues a like. I will always remember former GuideOne Chairman, President and CEO Darryl D. Hansen putting aside his personal grief to ensure everyone that the company was doing everything possible to provide support to Jeff’s family and friends. At Kum & Go, President and CEO Kyle J. Krause quickly responded to provide support to Shelia’s husband and daughters as well as her Humboldt colleagues.

As a former GuideOne employee and Kum & Go associate, my life was forever changed by the death of two colleagues. My career forever marked by the crisis communications and ongoing support for the families. My outlook on life forever shaped as a result of the deaths of Jeff and Sheila.

When death visits the workplace or a quiet community, it enters with unforgiving force and leaves an anguishing impression. However, it also awakens compassion, benevolence and kindness within each of us. Death startles, but does not extinguish our love for one another. It serves a bold reminder to savor each moment, each day and each person so that life can continue to be lived.