This column was published in print last week. I hate if when I look around and people are missing from my life. Pam was a sweetheart and only 53 years old, she will be missed by many.
I have mixed feelings about reading the obituaries in the local paper. I’m always glad to see that my name isn’t included, but I usually find someone else I’ve known.
It happens to all of us, we find that obituary notice and realize that death has left another hole in the fabric of our little universe. I always regret that I didn’t have a chance to get that last bit of wisdom or humor or advice the deceased had to offer.
Sometimes seeing the name is a shock, other times it’s expected. When the person you knew has been suffering and their name shows up in the obits, it can be a relief.
Emmy Lou and I were taken aback recently to find a neighbor and friend listed in the death notices. The woman, half a dozen years younger than I, was always active and vibrant. She spent a lot of time working in her garden or on her lawn. Even after her husband died, she kept her home and grounds immaculate.
She tried different places of employment. To me it seemed she was looking for social interaction as much as for the extra income. I was happy to see her land a job at a local convenience store, which serves beverages and light meals. I stop there often and sometimes take part in coffee and conversation. She and her husband, and Emmy and I had been acquainted for thirty years as neighbors, I came to know her better. Though younger than I, she reminded me of my mother, timid, kind, and generous.
She told me about her recent job history. She abandoned one job at a local large grocery store when she could no longer endure the mean spirited pranks pulled by a group of ill-mannered stock boys. They would take her supplies and hide tools she was working with if she turned her back or had to leave the area. It made her look bad, as though she couldn’t perform her duties. It is kind of a paradox; she raised her own kids to respect others and then had to put up with lousy treatment from other’s disrespectful young miscreant offspring.
I felt protective, as most who knew her would, I wanted to pay a visit to those stock boys, maybe try to make them see how they should respect someone older, especially if the person was weaker, timid or somewhat defenseless. Maybe some corporal punishment would show them the error in their ways, make them display a little respect.
Our friend began dating. She was excited and apprehensive. She seemed to feel a bit guilty about having a good time, as though she didn’t deserve to have fun. I tried to assure her that she had served enough staid and serious “widow time”; she should invite enjoyment into her life. I’m glad the began dating, I suspect it was a bright spot in her last months.
Our friend quit her convenience store job three or four months ago. I knew she had been sick. I asked co-workers when she was coming back to work; they didn’t seem to know or weren’t saying.
I knew she liked her job and fit in well at the store. I was sure she would be back to work in a short time. I made a decision not to make that phone call, hoping she was just having a good time. I would leave her alone to have fun, catch up with her later. I had no idea she was going through cancer treatments-chemo, radiation, the stuff we all know about, either first hand or through someone close.
I regret the decision not to ‘get in touch’; I could have heard her voice, mended in some small way the hole she was soon to leave. If you are thinking of picking up the phone to check on a friend or relative, or offer a little support, don’t hesitate. The opportunity will be taken away from you. Most likely before you are ready for it to happen..
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