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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To my dear friend, Nancy McLaughlin


A good friend of mine, one of the closest I ever had, died today. She didn't have many close friends, but I loved her as a person and a friend, and I need to tell people about her. When someone touches your life so much, you want to let others know.

When I first started at the Utility I work at, I was pretty much a loner. I kept to myself, and hid in the shadows watching things from afar. I was 21, and the adults I worked with were like the adults I always knew: serious, trying to be sophisticated, very civil.

Then I met Nancy, who started there about a year after I did. She spoke her mind, because she felt the truth was more important than civility (at times). She got that from her father, who meant the world to her, and taught her that lying was akin to betraying trust. Because of this, and her propensity to be silly, Nancy became a big bright spot of color on an otherwise dingy business office scene. Call it unprofessional (and sometimes maybe it was) but it made me smile inside. She actually stopped to chat with me, and cared about what I had to say, so we continued having conversations on breaks and before work.

We started going to lunch together; at first because I didn't have a car, and later because it was a way to socialize outside of work and keep each other company. I occasionally went over after work; at first to watch movies I knew she would enjoy, and later to catch up on each other's lives. Lots of times we'd never even get to lunch, and spend the whole hour on whatever errand it was. Nancy was a free thinker, and tended to get sidetracked in stores, only ending up with what she had originally been looking for right up to when it was time to get back to work. We had fun though, once or twice when I'd be checking out with my credit card, she'd joke with the clerk to me: "Hey hon, that's not that stolen card we got, is it?" But I got her back as well, as she was buying a carton of cigarettes: "Mommy, didn't the doctor say you shouldn't smoke?"

I grew up scared of physical contact. As a kid, the only physical contact I got on a regular basis was tickling (my Dad thought it was funny, and I suppose it is in hindsight), so I had a nasty habit of flinching when I was touched. Hugs were out of the question, but I was okay with a handshake. It was Nancy who taught me to hug, and to actually come to want them because they were enjoyable. She loved getting hugs, so to be nice I started hugging her when we'd meet, even though I didn't really enjoy it. After a while, I did get used to it, and I started looking forward to the hugs. Nancy gave me the first steps toward a close, loving relationship like I have with Hunter now, and I thank her for it whenever I can. Like now. Thanks hon, you saved me from half a life; a life without love. Other people helped with this transition too: Rosa, Kain, Xankarth... but Nancy started it all off.

Nancy had a secret, that only those close to her knew. She wore her heart on her sleeve, because it's who she was. However, to protect herself, she pretended the things that hurt didn't matter, by joking about them and appearing to brush them off. When she would feel insecure or out of place, she'd joke around or become sarcastic to cover it up. Underneith it all was the real Nancy, the one who cared and opened her heart to those around her. This is the Nancy I saw every time I visited.

She was laid off from the Utility about three years ago, but I still tried to visit once a week, and at first wrote a daily morning email to her. I confess since I have been living with Hunter that the emails weren't as common, but she understood, I'm sure of it. Having to leave the Utility was kind of a blessing, looking back on it. Work really stressed her out, and therefore made her angry lots of the time. I'm really glad she got to spend her last few years working in the garden, among the flowers and plants she enjoyed - her dogs scampering around her feet and eating the berries.

I'll miss you, hon, my dear friend. I'll miss how much you cared about me, and I'll miss helping you and making your troubled life just a little easier, even if all I did was listen.

Goodbye, Nancy :)

3 Comments:

At 10/16/2008 11:56 AM, OpenID drickenbacker said...

Really sorry to hear about your loss, Jay. Reading your tribute to Nancy, I can't help feeling what a great gift she was to you. It makes me think of the friends I have and that way to often I take them for granted and forget what a precious and fragile blessing they are. May you never have to do without good friends.

 
At 10/18/2008 6:26 AM, Blogger Geo Meek said...

Thank you for sharing your story.

 
At 10/26/2008 5:47 PM, Blogger The Only Girl at Home said...

Oh Marc - that was so great - I know how much my mom cared about you - she talked about you all the time - I almost feel like you should be my adopted brother - I miss her so much but I take great comfort in the fact that she was able to touch people's lives. I am glad that you were one of them.

 

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