She wasn’t my BFF. We weren’t childhood friends, I didn’t go to school with her, never ran a race, took a class, or joined a book club with her. I didn’t know all the personal details of her life, never went out for a drink or hung out on weekends with her. But she was a friend. We saw each other in the halls at work, ran into each other in the ladies room. We stood and talked, long conversations about life, family, choices. We picked each other up when we were having a bad day. At the very least we smiled and waved as we scurried about our work. She cared when my parents died. I cared when her marriage was over. She’d greet me with “How you doing Girlfriend?” and a smile. Sometimes I’d tell her how I was doing, sometimes not. But I was always glad she asked.
I wasn’t unique in my relationship with her. She was everyone’s Mom at work. She was where people went for an aspirin or advice. Where people went when they needed a break from the work grind, to talk about her grand-kids and admire their photos on her cubicle wall. To laugh. To commiserate. To recharge. She wore socks decorated with jingle bells during the holidays every year and we all smiled when we heard her walk by; she was the epitome of Christmas spirit, our own Christmas elf.
And when she didn’t feel well this winter we all cared. When she was gone from work awhile we all asked about her. “Not good” I was told when I asked her boss early in January. He was going to see her that weekend so I said I’d write her a note for him to deliver. The next day, giving him the note I heard more; it was more serious than I realized and I knew my note was inappropriate. I rewrote it that night, changed it from a cheery couple of lines to a two page letter telling her how much I enjoyed our conversations, how grateful I was that we were friends, how I would miss hearing those jingle bell socks as she went by during the holidays. I gave her my home phone number and my personal email in case she needed another long conversation.
I never heard from her. She died Thursday night – we heard the news at work Friday morning. Devastated does not begin to describe my sorrow. Our collective sorrow.
She was a little person, probably not five foot tall, with a heart as big as the sky. I can hear her voice in my head, I see her walking the halls at work. I strain to hear those bells. I tried to remember the last time I saw her, talked to her. She used to send me emails about jumbo loans that had to be underwritten in my area but had been sent in error to her department. When it was busy I was never happy to see her emails and we used to kid about her sending me the work. My last email from her was Christmas Eve.
Her: “Happy Holidays. I have just moved 3 files to your new deal
Me: “Thanks. no more gifts now….we don’t deserve them! 🙂 ”
Her: “Oh, but my friend, you DO deserve gifts!! ….the best that ever were 🙂
OK–no more gifts today–just a wish for a blessed, happy Christmas & New
Friday as I sat stunned in my cubicle I idly typed her name into email. I know it’s silly but I just wanted to say goodbye. I sat and stared at her name. Remembering. Trying not to cry. Listening to her voice in my head. Then I typed one line…”I’m going to miss you girlfriend.” I paused, then hit the send button. I got an auto reply: “I am out of the office until 3/3/14.”
Somewhere a short little lady is visiting with friends and family that have gone before. Her socks are jingling, her smile is wide, her face glows. Those of us left here are hurting, but were we ever lucky to have had her while we did.
So…you go girl, enjoy your next adventure. I wish it could have been the retirement we talked about, dreamed of. I wish you had had more time here. And I’m hoping this is the biggest, best adventure of all.
But I’m sure going to miss you girlfriend. Yes I am.