A Loss

The official month of death kicked off with the unexpected loss of a coworker, Carol, on August 1. She had been fighting lymphoma, but we all – including, I think, her – expected her to return to work.

She was admitted to intensive care on Tuesday, and because this is not just a small world but a small town, my sister was the one called in to try to revive Carol that night, and she died under my sister’s hands.

My sister takes these things better than I do. She believes that by the time the code team is called in, the patient is no longer really “there”, though she adds that maybe she just tells herself that in order to be able to do what she does.

It’s been quiet at work in the days since, as we all try to come to terms with the loss of someone who always had a smile and a cheerful word, a bright presence who had worked at the clinic for a decade and who left the world too soon.

One thing I have learned the hard way is that you can’t tell grieving people “let me know if you need anything”. They don’t know what they need and they can’t tell you. So you do something useful, like walk the dog, mow, the lawn, or pick up groceries. We have set up a calendar at work so people can sign up to bring the family food, and an account at the local credit union to raise money to get Carol’s youngest daughter here from Alaska and to defray final expenses.

Today was my turn to bring food to the family. I made chicken enchiladas using salsa verde my siblings made from tomatillos, garlic, and onions grown at the property, and Megan picked a fresh onion for it from the garden. Somehow, using food we grew ourselves seemed to make it more meaningful. And I found the process of cooking itself to be healing.

Carol and her husband were an extremely devoted couple, and he is devastated. He did say that these gifts of food from Carol’s coworkers mean a lot to him and to the family, especially since they involve a visit and the opportunity to talk about Carol and share memories. Nothing can really help except time, but in the meantime, they are not alone and our community, as it always does, has wrapped its arms around the family.

Hold close those you love.

A YEAR AGO: More death, with the loss of Jack, the last cat John and I had together. Maybe my friend who told me I should start getting used to these departures was right.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Uh, well…the anniversary of my mother’s death, and other assorted bad news. August, man. I’m telling you.