I'm not sure what happened yesterday. I forgot it was Wednesday. I thought it was, I dunno, some weird, previously undiscovered day of the week, perhaps Tursday? Anyway, The Etiquette Lady will come back next Wednesday. (provided I don't make up another day).
In November, a colleague literally dropped dead. I'm sorry, it's not the most gentle way to put it, but that's exactly what happened. She went to have a nap on a Saturday, and she didn't wake up. Today I was working on something, and I looked up at the person I was working with, and I said "I miss Judy." I said it with a fervor that surprised me. I miss her when I have to talk to another lawyer, and Judy is in the corner of the room, and we navigate around her, around her absence, around the unfinished files we are slowly picking up. I miss her for her acumen. I miss her for her gentleness, I miss her for her kindness. I simply miss walking into a conference room, and seeing her there.
I remember a meeting after I returned to work last year. No one outside my department knew what had happened. The more observant among them knew that I had been pregnant, and I now wasn't, and that I clearly hadn't been gone for a year. A few thought I came back early. Most didn't really ask - they just stared. I still don't know what's worse, the asking or the not.
But, we were in this meeting, wrapping up. Chatting, the way we do at the end of meetings. I think I was likely apologizing that whatever we had been discussing had been dropped when I left on 'medical leave'.
And there was that moment. You know it. When someone is about to say something about what happened, about to ask a question, about to express some sort of sympathy. And truthfully, I was probably fed up with talking about it. I used to joke that I was going to hand out a card. With a timeline on one side, the frequently asked questions on the other. I was tired of explaining my son's death in corridors and elevators and on the thresholds of meeting rooms. I was tired of his short and wondrous and miraculous life reduced to 2 sentences. I was tired of talking about it, of thinking about it, of re-living it, just to give someone the Cole's Notes version. I was, just tired.
But this moment, in which Judy looked as if she wanted to say something, was going to say something: I did that almost instinctive thing, where we start speaking really quickly and stop looking at the person, and change the subject, and hope the moment passes, silently.
Perhaps I was resentful, I had worked on an entire project, for months, with my belly getting slowly, and silently larger. Others commented. They laughed at my snacking and my brain dead tendencies. Judy, well, Judy said nothing, which seemed strange. She surely noticed, and she was the sort of woman who you would think would say something.
I read the obituary, those tiny words towards the end - pre-deceased by her daughter. Suddenly, with 8 months of experience at this grieving thing, suddenly I saw that look in her eyes the day she tried to, wanted to speak to me. I understood why she wouldn't say anything to me while pregnant.
I wrote her husband a letter a few days after her death. Telling her family, and especially her young daughters how wonderful it was to work with her. Telling them how much I missed Judy. And I closed my eyes, and my heart broke for her husband and son and daughters here on earth. I hurt for them, for no mother, no wife. But my heart also soared. For a tiny little girl who waited such a long time for mummy to come home.