Today I was sitting in my non-descript cubicle at The Scooter Store, minding my own business, when I got an email from a former co-worker telling me a former employee of mine had died that morning from a heart attack. It seems she was pulling into her parking lot at her apartment complex when she had a massive heart attack. Her car crashed into another car with enough violence to prompt by-standers to see if she was OK. She was not OK, she was slumped over the steering wheel and was.....dead. The paramedics were called, and she was revived at the hospital just in time for her to have another massive heart attack, one from which she would not recover.
I don't remember exactly when Linda came to work for us at Crystal Falls, but it seems like forever ago. She didn't have a great phone voice, wasn't great with customers, and was apt to make errors on the job that were a little mind-boggling. But she was there every day she was scheduled, and she was sort of a mom to a lot of people at the car wash that didn't really have a "mom." I know that there were a lot of people that grew very close to her. She will really be missed by many. Even at 52 years old, she still tended to her grown daughter and grandchildren, freely sharing with them her meager resources. I often teased her about that, telling her she needed to let her daughter grow up. Every time I did that, I always ended by saying, "You know, that's easy for me to say. I'd probably do the same thing for my kids," and she'd just nod in a way that only someone that's seen it all can nod.
I lost four employees over the years at the car wash, including Linda, and I can still recall even the most minute details about each of them.
I remember how Lloyd White, well into his seventies, was the first employee at work every day. He continued to work when he didn't really need to because he wanted to put his grandchildren through college. Lloyd died of pancreatic cancer. He was dead within 2 months of his diagnosis.
I remember Barbara. Barbara and I HATED each other when I first came to work at Crystal Falls, but over the years she and I became very close. Once you got past that gruff exterior (that is, once she knew you could be trusted), you couldn't meet a kinder and wiser lady than Barbara. I remember when Barbara got her new car. A green Ford Taurus; it was the first new car she'd had that I knew of, and it wasn't really new, but it was vastly superior to her old car. I was so happy for her, and I insisted that it be regularly washed and waxed. Occassionally I would give Barbara a gift card so she could buy gas for that car. When Barbara, a devout Christian, learned she had stage 3 liver cancer, she was just fine with going home to her God as soon as she could.
I remember Ruben. Ruben was just a great guy. He was handy with his hands, had a sharp mind, worked his ass off, and had a bright future. While I never attended one, the parties out on his land were legendary. None of us will ever really know what happened that night between him and his wife. No one but her. Jeff, Jon, Pace, his wife, and I were in the room when his heart stopped beating.
And finally Linda. The thing I remember about her is that laugh of hers. It was a laugh no different than any other person that's chain-smoked their entire life. But what was different was that she laughed often, robustly, and even at stupid jokes. And she always set out the ads for everyone so they knew where the bargains were on food that week.
Each of them touched me and others in a different way, and they'll all be missed. What I hope to learn from it is this: how will people remember me?
How will they remember you?