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.
Welcome to www.TheFiftyFactor.com - Joanna Jenkins
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