I was walking to work. Sun was out. I had my headphones in, and was in good spirits. I was listening to a song I liked, and felt my skin get goosebump-y at the end of the song.
I’d just come off the best weekend I’d had in recent memory.
My worst week began about three minutes later.
Within moments of setting down my backpack, my boss came over. I remember frowning because I thought he was going to give me some task.
Instead, he told me a co-worker of mine – who’d just gone out to the east coast to work, just days before – had been run down in a hit-and-run accident on Saturday night, while crossing the street. She’d just been on her way back to her hotel room from a friend’s house.
She died of her injuries Sunday evening. And the person who did it was still out there somewhere.
I honestly don’t remember feeling overcome at first. I remember saying, “Oh no,” and then something inconsequential. I remember sitting at my desk, the words on replay over and over in my mind.
Mere seconds after my boss had told me, another co-worker senior to myself, came up to me and sombrely asked me how I was doing.
How can I possibly know? I was thinking to myself. I literally was trying to process what I’d just been told. Instead I said, “I’m in shock. I just found out.”
By the time I was in the restroom five minutes later, I was choking back sobs in front of another sympathetic co-worker, probably babbling incomprehensively about what I was trying to deal with.
I said very little in the time following. We had someone from our employee services department, who I guess was our grief counsellor, come in and talk to us, asking us if we wanted to share our thoughts about our newly-departed colleague.
I kept my mouth shut, clenching my jaw to stop the tears from flowing. I couldn’t talk, because I’d start crying and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stop. I just wanted the immediate grief to pass.
It’s been about four days since then. Work has been better, and I can function more or less without welling up.
But I still feel at certain moments in my day as if I’m peering at myself, going about my business, from a telescopic lense.
And the disbelief still hangs over my head like a fine mist.
I wish I knew how to precisely describe my work-friend. There’s just so many things to say.
She used a motorized wheelchair. But I didn’t really see it; I saw her.
And she was quite a lady. I’ve read things describing her as feisty and spunky, which are true. She was also unbelieveably hard-working, and ready to throw herself into the fray. She was outspoken, and as I found out – when it came to issues of accessibility – stood up for her rights, made a difference, and brought about change when opportunities arose.
I also remember overhearing her at work, talking about cooking, her dog, or good restaurants she’d been to … or even travelling. Chicago. I remember saying how much she loved Chicago. I’ve never been myself; but (before her death) I actually became more interested in wanting to go myself, because she’d talked it up so much.
And now, just like that, she’s gone.
It’s made me think about a number of things.
My own mortality.
How easy it is to take life for granted.
How complacent I’ve become, instead of making things happen like she did.
How I’ve never really fought for anything, mainly because up until now, I’ve never really had to.
She was larger than life. And now there’s a void where her sparkle should be.
She wasn’t just a consummate professional, but truly “good people”.
I hope wherever she is, she’s all right and being taken care of.
But for a lot of us down here, we’ll miss her terribly.
You can read about her here.