An acquaintance of mine died last week. Died, as in killed suddenly and horribly. Not “passed away.” That sounds too kind, too peaceful. Mary’s death at the wheel of her car, its front end becoming one with a large tree alongside a wet road, was shocking, but not surprising. The night she died, she was with friends in a local restaurant, when a remark from someone in the group made her mad enough to suddenly walk out, get in her car and drive the way she lived – fast, furious and headlong into trouble.
Mary was the kind of person who did not walk into a room, she erupted into it. She laughed and had a good time in any space she occupied, and did her best to make sure everyone else laughed and had a good time, too. Her life was a series of eye-rolling, soap-opera incidents, mostly having to do with work and men. She worked as a manicurist, and I became acquainted with her a dozen years ago, when I began treating myself to weekly manicures at the hair salon I frequented. Mary was not my manicurist; her friend and coworker Denise took care of me, and still does. Over the years, Denise and Mary left that salon, worked elsewhere, but continued their friendship and professional association.
Three weeks ago, Denise told me she was moving on yet again to a new salon, since her rent was being raised and her hours cut. She was happy to move, because she and Mary would be together again, working and causing mayhem. She could not wait for the reunion.
It lasted less than a week.
It was hard on everyone – clients and salon personnel – to go to the shop and not see Mary. People talk about how losing a loved one leaves a hole in their lives. I think Mary’s death left a hole in life, period. The exuberance, the fun, the long-running novel of her love life, the klutzy accidents she had with nail glue – the things to miss and remember, to laugh and cry about.
I hate seeing friends in my age group die. It is a reminder that I can be next, and it can be at any time. I’m not done here yet, and I am not ready yet. I have My Next Life still to come. I need to work harder to get there. Mary never saw her job as any less important or necessary as any other job. She was good at it, proud of it, and lived loudly and with swagger. I want to live just like that.