Today’s post is going to be a Debbie Downer and my thoughts may not be so organized, so if you’re not interested, I advise you stop now. I wear my heart on my sleeve and if you ask anyone, I can tell you anything I’m feeling without filters. But when it comes to sadness and grief, it’s hard for me to verbally express. It’s easy for others to tell something is wrong with me but I usually insist that there isn’t, just because I don’t want to rehash all the emotions in my mind that I’ve already been dealing with.
So here’s the problem: my manager, Andrea, passed away. To say the least, it was very unexpected. She had been battling cancer for the last year and it seemed as though her treatments were working. She wasn’t going to have to go through chemo anymore and she was so excited. She told us in one of the last team meetings that she was winning the fight and she promised she’d be 100% herself again. Andrea unexpectedly got sick, was admitted to the hospital and that was it. We got very few details but we knew that it wasn’t cancer related and that the infection just got worse and worse. Our only assumption at this point is that her immune system had enough.
I guess the element of surprise is what affected our team the most. She had been in the hospital for about 4-5 weeks, even 6 maybe. We had known that the cancer was virtually gone and so the fact that she was in the hospital and died from something completely unrelated just got the best of us.
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
I have been busy at work helping out with mail duties since we’re short staffed and I guess I was so preoccupied with the mail that I didn’t have time during the day to reflect. I kept thinking to myself, “This can’t be real”, but as I started thinking more about her, someone would interrupt my thoughts with questions about the mail. It wasn’t until I got in my car that it hit me. She’s never coming back. It’s hard knowing she’s never going to walk down our aisle of desks leaving the strong aroma of her perfume. She’s never going to get mad at us during team meetings then lighten the mood with a silly quiz, brain teaser, or riddle of some sort. She’s never going to email me and ask if I mind picking up tacos in the morning. I guess it’s really surprising more so because we did expect her to come back at some point. I turned on the car and Luke Bryan’s “Country Girl” was playing and I immediately burst into tears. Luke Bryan was Andrea’s favorite. She thought he was so cute and she was bummed when she couldn’t attend his concert back in February. She sold me the tickets and told me to take lots of pictures so she could have her own experience of the concert. I called a good friend, who also knew and worked for Andrea in the past to break the news to her. It was heartbreaking.
When I got home, my mom knew something was wrong and I just burst into tears again and told her, “Andrea passed away”. She hugged me and said she was sorry and the only thing I could think of to say after that was , “I should have gone to see her, Mom. I’m such an asshole.” She said to me, “You can’t let yourself feel guilty about that.” But the truth is, I do feel guilty. I wanted to go see her but didn’t want to invade her privacy. After all, she was a manager and not a good friend. What was the protocol for this situation? However, I’m not going to let the guilt outweigh the happy times I had with her and the memories that will forever live in my heart. I’m not mad that this happened by any means because I have faith that God has plans for Andrea. I’m just sad that our time with her was so short.
What is amazing to me is the realization of other things like how much she really meant to me and to the rest of the team. We have all shed tears and expressed how much she meant to us personally and professionally. I’ve also realized that we need to live each day like it’s our last. Everyone says that and the phrase is played out but we REALLY do need to live each day like it’s our last. We need to make time for people who are important to us; all too often we say that we don’t have time to do this or that because of work or other activities but in the end, what if tomorrow never comes? It never came for Andrea and I can almost guarantee that her husband and family knew how much she loved them. Her dogs knew how much she loved them. She’s resting happily with no regrets because she lived each day to the fullest. There was no doubt about it because with the cancer diagnosis, she learned that it really is the little things that count: the air in our lungs, the roof over our heads, the shoes on our feet, the job we come to everyday, and most importantly the love of our family and dear friends.
I’m usually the girl everyone runs to with their problems and I’m rarely the person to run to anyone with hers, but just this once, I want someone to notice something is wrong and ask me about it. “Hey Lauren, are you okay?” I love my friends but I think they get caught up in their own lives sometimes that they don’t bother asking how I’m doing.
I basically just want a hug and a shoulder to cry on.