Monday / August 22 / 2011
The phone call you never want to get
Our Monday morning started with more frivolity than usual. Casual dress, sunscreen in hand, and a cooler filled with fruit salad and grill-ables. We couldn’t have picked a more glorious Adirondack day for our staff picnic on Lake George.
And then the phone rang…
The next moment we saw our friend, her face was wounded, her cheeks tear-stained. It was her brother on the phone, calling to say their Mom had died.
The news hit us all like a spear in the heart. And we mourned together.
“I miss her already,” was all she could utter as we wrapped our arms around her in group solidarity. In the quiet embrace we shared her tears, her heartbreak, her pain — whispering, “we love you. we’re so sorry.”
We helped her gather her things, conjuring ways to assist. It was that desperate-to-be-of-service moment you find yourself in right after a cherished friend shares such life-altering news. The desire to do the impossible: help ease the pain.
After escorting her down the stairs and to her car, our remaining team sat together trying to absorb what had just happened. Our friend told us to carry on with our picnic as planned. But we all knew we wouldn’t, and couldn’t.
You see, we’re not just co-workers. We are friends. Sharing-life-together kind of friends (one of the benefits of a small team). To move forward as planned with a man down would have been — well, just wrong. Incomplete. It was hard enough to go on with the day as if it were just any other day.
I returned to my office with a grateful heart. Grateful to be in this place, in this job, at this moment. Grateful to belong to this little band of vastly different individuals, who’ve bonded together not only as a staff, but as a troop of friends committed to our inside jokes, team song, and nicknames.
Death is the one thing we’re certain awaits, no matter our beliefs, upbringing, health habits or how ‘good’ we’ve been. It’s unavoidable. Mandatory, if you will. It didn’t matter that her Mom was 85, or that she had lived longer than either of her parents had. What mattered is that she was here, and now she is gone. The “now what?” questions left blindingly unanswered.
With just the ring of a phone, life was catapulted into perspective, bringing us face-to-face with the fragility of life and the strength of relationships.
This blog post is lovingly dedicated to Mrs. P.
To her extraordinary life.
And to the love she baked-into her children.