Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Every now and then something happens that feels like a sucker punch to the face causing me to stop and be so present in the moment that it takes my breath away.  I hope that feeling has never, or does not ever, happen to you.  This week it happened to me again.

I was reminded how fragile life is when I walked into our favorite deli-- like my husband and I do every weekend morning for breakfast, and asked to sit in our favorite waitress' station.  The look on the young hosts face gave me pause, then a busboy rushed over followed by another waitress to tell me that Terri, a 20 year veteran of the deli, had passed away in the night from a massive heart attack.  Terri was only 53 years old.

The weekend prior she was out sick because of bronchitis.  Terri actually called my cell phone when she knew we'd be at the deli so I wouldn't worry about her.  She said she was okay but not feeling great.  She was seeing the doctor the next day.

Beyond being a fave waitress, Terri and I developed a friendship outside the restaurant that included emails and phone calls to catch up with each other on family and life in general.  Together we shared the loss of her mother ten years and my step-day last year, the joyful births of our numerous nieces and nephews, health issues, and new stores and restaurants in our neighborhood.  We had sort of woven ourselves into each other's lives over the years and considered ours a meaningful friendship.

Terri called me from the doctor's office to say she was on the way to the hospital because her bronchitis was far more than that.  She'd actually suffered a heart attack and was being whisked away.  We talked briefly so I could take down phone numbers of people she wanted me to call and promised to call me later.

We talked from her Intensive Care Unit bed for the next four days as doctors worked to stabilize her bronchitis that had rapidly progressed into pneumonia and to find a solution to her heart issues.  Wednesday night she started to sound better and a bit stronger when we talked and was optimistic but frustrated with the endless paperwork and social workers because she did not have any medical insurance.

Thursday multiple phone calls to Terri's hospital room and cell phone went unanswered.  Thursday evening she had a massive heart attack and was gone.

As my husband and I were finally seated after hearing the news on Friday, numerous wait staff members stopped by our table to share their sadness.  They'd only learned of Terri's passing a few hours earlier and were all still in shock.  Terri was a sweetheart and loved by so many that I wasn't surprised that the "old timers" who'd worked with her for countless years would be devastated.  But an interesting thing happened around the restaurant...

There was clearly a different vibe in the deli that morning and even if you didn't know Terri or what had happened, you knew something was up.  As regular patrons and "Terri's customers" continued to arrive and learn the sad news, sobs and words of shock could be heard around the dining room.

Terri had, purely by her smile, thoughtfulness, kind words and great service, touched the lives of so many people who were genuinely sadden by her passing.  The thing is, I think that Terri would be surprised by how many people miss her.  I don't think she realized what a difference she made in people's lives.

I know in the coming weeks more and more deli patrons will ask for Terri and hear of her passing. Many will cry as I continue to do.  And, I think many will pause for just a moment and remember her kindness.  I hope they take a moment-- we all take a moment-- to remember the people we see on a regular basis that touch our lives, even with something as simple as delivering eggs and a bagel with a smile and a few kind words.  Terri has reminded me to stay present and to take a moment to appreciate life's little things.

Big sigh.

Welcome to  -  Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit: © rgbspace -


  1. I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend.

  2. so sorry to hear about this untimely passing. It's the 2nd one I've heard of this week. Both 53, like me.

  3. that happened to my husband recently, a man he knew through business and respected for years passed away at 52. He was in such shock after. So sorry, L.

  4. I'm very sorry for your loss, and the loss for so many others. I think she now knows just how special she was to her customers.

    Sometimes, just a smile is enough to bring someone back from a really rotten day. If we would all give away a smile or a simple hello, we would feel good, and the recipient would feel even better!

    Sad, but excellent post! A great reminder to us all that we could be taken at any time. Make every day count!

  5. Ahhhh, so sad! I'm so very sorry for your loss. We too lost a friend this past week before his time.

    It's so true, not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow. We should truly live each day like is was our last.

    God bless and take care sweet friend, I will keep you and Terri's family in my prayers.

  6. Oh, Joanna! It's all so fragile, isn't it? Thank goodness she had your support during her last days and is remembered so kindly. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  7. You're so very right. I'm so sorry for those of you left behind. Thank you for the reminder. Life IS a very fragile gift.

  8. How very sad, she went far too young. {{{HUGS}}} to you my friend.

  9. What a shock....and a lesson. It is sad to think she didn't know how appreciated she was. I know she must have appreciated your friendship. I am sorry for your loss.

  10. That's just so sad. I'm sorry you lost your friend. It's shocking to me, because she was only a little older than me. You are so right, that we need to appreciate the little things more and to be more aware of our surroundings. I hope you will be ok.

  11. I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. It's a reminder to enjoy each moment and never take our loved ones for granted.

  12. I'm so sorry you lost your friend, but what a bright light she was in your life! May her light continue to shine and comfort you as you mourn.

  13. Oh, that's so sad. I'm sorry about your friend - what a loss.

    But it strikes me that if that feeling never happens to you - the sucker punch - you are living a life not fully connected.

  14. Such an excellent post. Sorry about your loss, but you have made us all the richer for it.
    " The thing is, I think that Terri would be surprised by how many people miss her. I don't think she realized what a difference she made in people's lives."

    We all are Terri.

    Thanks for reminding us.

    Aloha from Honolulu,

    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >

  15. So very sad and much too young. Thanks for sharing her memory here.

  16. I am sad just from reading your post. She sounded like such a wonderful person who left an imprint on everyone who she came in contact with. I hope that her memory will live on for a long, long time. I'm sorry that you've had to say goodbye.

  17. So sorry and my deepest condolences on the loss of your friend Joanna...such a lovely tribute and reminder that just as Cloudia mentioned,we are all Terri, and there but for the grace of God we go every day...thank you for sharing..Peace to you from the NYC my friend ~ Edward

  18. Oh JJ it breaks my heart 53 is too young....what an amazing person and I'm so sorry for your loss. Life isn't fair plain and simple.(((hugs)))

  19. So sorry to read of Terri's passing. We are all going to die someday, but so few of us consider 53 years having been a full life. I am saddened and never even knew about her until now. Life is uncertain...

  20. It is amazing how a person can become a part of our lives just by the simple act of "being". She sounds like a wonderful person. We lost what WE thought was an amazing person about a week ago and we'd never met him. But he has been our favorite local channel newscaster for many, MANY years...a young man who leaves behind a wife and triplets. We just couldn't believe he had passed away...

  21. So sorry to hear of your loss, esp. at such an untimely age, but how good of you to remember her here and give us a taste of her kindness, her thoughtfulness, and how deeply she touched your lives.

  22. Wow Joanna, I'm so sad for you, and all of this dear girl's friends.
    I just received a reminder yesterday, my neighbor's daughter had a stillborn, full term, over eight pounds. They still don't know what went wrong, the baby died right before birth. So sad.
    Life is truly a gift, and so many people waste it. Responding in love is really the best we can do. And humility, that's good too.
    Love you honey. xo d

  23. Sorry to hera about your friends passing... Yes, life is precious and a true miracle and we often waste its precious moments on petty worries, arguments and wasted pursuits. I realized a while ago that what really matters is the privilege to be able to wake up each morning and just breath without pain.
    Have a great weekend and once again, sorry for your loss...
    hugs to you

  24. Joanna, I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your dear friend. My heart aches for you and all of those who loved her. You wrote a lovely tribute for Terri.

  25. my heart goes out to you and all those who loved Terri. What a terrible shock, and stone-cold reminder that life turns on a dime. You've written a beautiful post, one that has settled deep inside me. Thank you for that.

  26. Snarky Sister:
    I know I have been MIA for awhile. And, this morning, I just had to come and visit I understand why.

    I'm sorry this small sweet corner of your life has been suddenly removed. I'm sad for you...I understand these feelings.

    It's almost as if your mind is amazed at how important someone like Terri has become to your life. Not that you took her for granted, but you only knew her in a specific context and we can't really understand how much it becomes woven into the fabric of our being.

    What I am left with from this post, besides your very true reminder that we need to take a moment and recall and thank those who are good to us, is what a truly good person you are...a caring and kind person who is so very willing to share these jewels with others.

    The Christ said, "When you do this for the least of my brethren, you do this for Me." No person is too small for you to share with. And, that is what makes you such a gift to the world.

    I love you.

  27. 53 is tragically young to pass away. My father died suddenly at 58so my thoughts are with your friend's family.

  28. Wow JJ, that is just so sad to read. I am turning 52 on the 19th of this month and I am not read to go yet as I'm sure your friend wasn't either. Life is short and precious and hearing things like this make me so grateful for my life, family and friends. I can only hope I touch people in the way your friend did, what a testiment to what a fabulous lady she was!! Hugs!!

  29. What a shock that must have been. And so young too. I am very sorry for your loss. There are no words really are there - you were a good friend to her and I am sure she appreciated that very much. Life is tenuous really and you are right we need to live in the moment and be thankful for what we have. You just never know. RIP Terri.


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