The stress of holding in my tears caused my shoulders to ache, my back to tighten and my head to hurt. I knew I had to hold in my tears; that was the only way I’d get through the rest of my day at work without breaking down into an ugly cry.
I knew something was horribly wrong when I saw people surrounding Donna in the back of the newsroom. Donna’s makeup was running. Her face was red and there was a line to hug her. I knew it was bad but I didn’t think it was the worst news possible.
I figured out I was wrong when I overheard Donna say she got a call. What call? I thought. From who? What happened? Just then our six o’clock producer passed me. I blurted out, “what’s going on? ” I saw his mouth moving and I heard the words but my brain couldn’t process what he was saying. He said, “Mary died.”
My heart hurt. So I clutched it and muttered, “Oh no. No. It can’t be.” I realized how dramatic I was acting so I turned to him and said, “thank you for telling me.”
I turned back to my computer screen and my mind was blank. How the hell am I supposed to break down these stories when I can’t think? I wondered. I tried to calm myself by breathing and stretching. I was okay until my boss came, placed her hand on my back and asked how I was doing, how my dad, who had also been ill, was doing. Tears clouded my vision as I blinked rapidly to hold them in. I said “I’m okay. He’s okay. We’re still here.”
Moments after she walked away, Donna walked towards me looking dazed. I did what I don’t normally do. I reached out, grabbed her, pulled her to me and told her I loved her. I wished I could’ve done something more to ease her pain but I knew I couldn’t.
Donna and Mary had practically become sisters; they were the best of friends. Donna provided all of the updates on Mary following her visits to Mary in the hospital.
Mary had fallen a few months back, breaking what I believe to be her pelvis. She spent some time in the hospital in Connecticut then was transferred to a rehabilitation center near home in New York.
I thought she was on the mend, especially because she posted a message on my linked in page a few weeks earlier. Yet, a couple of weeks later, we learned that Mary was back in the hospital. Rumors swirled: her liver was failing, she was in a coma, she was suffering from a life threatening infection.
Last week, Mary’s boss purchased a card for the staff to sign to cheer her up. By the time I got to it at 11 am, it was full. So I went out at lunch and bought another one. This one had a basket on the front. Mary loved to make baskets for baby showers, weddings; really any occasion. She made them for me during my many hospitalizations due to my chronic illness. And, she always made sure there were a pair pajamas in there for me. She knew I collected them.
Donna took the cards to Mary and then reported back. She told us Mary was improving but not out of the woods. Still, she hoped Mary would get transferred to a regular room soon. She hoped and we hoped. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
Mary left us before I could visit as I had promised on Christmas Day. She left us with the snowman filled with candy she bought to make everyone’s day brighter. She left me with the fiancé she encouraged me to have a milkshake with six years ago. She left the station with a body of work that won’t be forgotten. She left the world devoid of one more kind, loving human being. But, she left us all better because we knew her. Rest in peace, Mary. I loved you!