“Your husband’s birthday is on March 22nd?” I could tell by the look on her face that she wasn’t a fan of that day. I smile, thinking to myself – not only is it his birthday, but it was also the day he proposed to me in 2008. There are definitely some happy memories attached to that particular date for me. “That was my wedding anniversary, I try to forget that date,” she said, sipping on her cup of coffee…and still looking slightly disgusted. I suggest that she simply replace that date with a happier memory.. in which she tells me that this date is actually her new dogs birthday – and the moment she starts talking about her dog, she too is smiling..and we leave the break room with our own daily To Do’s and (most importantly) a full cup of coffee in hand. But, I kept thinking about our conversation…is there a day for me, that I wish I could forget?
For me, the date is Sept 11th – It’s a date we are all familiar with – the innocent lives that were taken, the sadness, the loss, the realization that even the United States is not completely protected from such violent acts of terrorism. On that day, I was supposed to be working at the Alaska Airlines Reservations Center in Boise. But, for some reason – I actually took my allotted day off and slept in until at least 10AM. I remember getting up and turning on the television to watch a re-run of 90210, but every channel I turned to had the same scene. When I saw the plane crash into the Twin Towers, I just assumed that this was some preview for a new movie or something -obviously, I was not paying attention, or maybe I was still processing as I continued to mindlessly flip through the channels. But when I stopped, and listened to what the reporter was saying.. and I read the headlines on the bottom of the screen, it was only then that I realized what had just happened. Now, fast forward 12 years later on that same day – September 11. I’ve just returned to working at PNWU after being gone for .. lets just call it a short” 3 Month Sabbatical” I was in the midst of answering emails from students, updating 4th year schedules, and doing credential checks .. when I received an email that would change this day, for me, forever. It has been almost 4 years and still – when I think of that day, well – I wish I could forget it.
Honestly, I can’t remember all of the words of that dreaded email, but I do remember thinking to myself – she is gone. And then – my last moments with her flashed before my eyes. It was just 3 months ago, her door was open (it was always was) and I was telling her about how excited I was to come back to PNWU. I always loved working with her in OPP. I loved watching her instruct the students during their labs – she really cared about them, and it showed. She always had the best stories. Her office was right next door to Dr. E’s. She called him “Her boyfriend”.. even though they were really married .. for awhile, some faculty members honestly thought that she was married AND had a boyfriend..in which she decided was just as entertaining as any other rumor at PNWU. Our conversations were always something I enjoyed. She was so easy to talk to, and for being recognized as one of the best OBGYN’s in the nation, she was also one of the most down to earth, genuine and sincere people I have ever met in my life.She knew what to say when I was stressed, or when I needed a good laugh, she helped lighten the load of the all familiar and yet very annoying “office politics” and I’ll never forget the sweet way she would say “Come on in chicky!”She would clear a seat for me to sit down and sometimes I would be in there for a few minutes… and sometimes, depending on how good the story was .. I might end up staying a little longer.
That day, when I went to see her – I knew she had been sick. But, she was very private, and often joked, telling us about her vacationing at “The Spa”- She had another “Spa” visit planned and promised me I would see her again before Christmas. I gave her a hug goodbye and looked forward to her return. Staring at that email, I felt like I wasn’t ready to accept this news of her passing. I stepped outside my office to refill my coffee cup..on my way to the kitchen, my co-worker Sarah walked towards me and said, “I just read the email about Dr. T..You worked closely with her, didn’t you?!” I nodded my head, fighting back the tears, as she gave me a hug. She hugged me. I felt the sting of a few tears trickling down my face. That’s when it truly hit me .. she isn’t coming back for Christmas and our visit last summer in her office – was my last goodbye to her. I do remember the email saying it was Dr. T’s own wishes that students/faculty and staff were not distracted by this, and that the students needed to focus on their studies..now was not the time to mourn. Even with her last breath – she continued to think of others. Her husband (aka boyfriend) gave the key note that year at Graduation. Since I’ve known him, he has always been on point and eloquent with everything he said. Well, that year – as he ended his key note with the words, “My Wife and I are proud to present the Class of 2014” – there was not a dry eye in sight! It’s as if she were there – and this was the moment when all of us could finally let down our gaurd, even he (who never loses composure) shed a few a tears..and it was just for that moment, but it was enough – to mourn her loss together – and celebrate the success of these students – in which SHE was part of – every step of the way.
I don’t have another memory to replace for that day – I’m not sure I ever will. I know there are plenty of other experiences I’ve had that were challenging, and sometimes even the days leading up to an actual event or decision – like the day I finally decided to break up with my boyfriend.. and he tells me he has cancer.. in which I prolong the break-up for another year..because he told me his news first, and well.. I just couldn’t do it. Or those many times, when I tell someone goodbye, and I don’t know when I’ll see them again – I always worry, what if that’s my last time? … Or even the ONE day a year, when I get my flu shot, and the thought of a needle touching my skin is enough to put me over the edge.. well, these experiences – as much as they stand out in my mind, they don’t really have a specific date tied to them that I can recall. So for now – Sept. 11 is it. I ask my husband the same question – “Do you have a date you wish you could forget?” Nope – he’s got nothing. He lives his life one day at a time, with no regrets… although, he is turning 40 soon.. we will see if his answer changes.