I've lived in 5 different lofts and have had hundreds of neighbors whom I've known personally in those buildings. Now, of course, to varying degrees, I know more than 100 residents at my work at any given time, over the past 4.5 years. I had a new experience on Tuesday.
T. has always been such a delightful person. Several years ago, she was living in the Piggly Wiggly building and met my sister and her family who were also living there at the time. My sister told me about this lovely person she'd sit on the deck and chat with in the evenings. T had a pair of Afghan hounds, and I remember my sister telling me that one day after 9-11, some redneck dork-on-'roids rolled down the street in his pickup truck screaming at her that her dogs were responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans. I know: wtf?
Flash forward a few years, and T had moved off to Colorado, thinking the clear, dry air would be better for her breathing. Not so. The higher altitude made matters worse. Oddly, she called my apartments when she was looking for an apartment back in Dallas. She told me she'd lived at Piggly Wiggly and I put 2 and 2 together and we had a grand old time laughing about the Afghan hound thing, and she even got to be back in touch with my sister.
Friday I did something very unusual-- I left my real estate briefcase in my apartment office. I never do that.
Sunday I had an appointment and had to swing by the office for my papers and business cards and wossit. I found T standing in front of office, chatting with another neighbor. I joined in the conversation for a few minutes, and things turned to property matters. T told me a concern she had, and I told her I was on the case and that I was going to take care of it and evict the offending party, if necessary. She's shy and not one to complain readily, and I felt angry and indignant for her that someone would try to abuse her good nature. Mama mad now. No one messes with my baby chicks.
Anyway, I realized we were talking about unpleasantness for a few minutes and I said to both of them, looking into their eyes, that although I felt overwhelmed with righteous anger when people abuse the system and their neighbors, that I have to pull that back in and remember that 99.99% of our residents were good people, and that some-- like the two-- of them made my job a joy and were the sum total of what was rewarding about my work. They smiled and acted kind of "aw, shucksy," and I grabbed my briefcase and ran to my appointment, telling them how nice it was to see them.
Within 29 hours, sweet darling 35-year-old T had died of a profound asthma attack at work on Monday. Her sister called me Tuesday to make arrangements for wrapping up her apartment details. I was utterly crestfallen. She and I had exchanged text messages Monday morning. No. I just saw her. I can hear her voice in my head. No neighbor or resident has ever passed away. This is difficult to process.
I'm so sad, but I'm so thankful I got a chance to know her. I am thankful that I'm not afraid of looking foolish if I tell people how very fond I am of them. I'm thankful I forgot my briefcase Friday and got one last chance to see her wonderful self. We none of us are guaranteed a moment here, and it would be a shame to depart having left a nice and supportive word unsaid. And it seems so strange that this little quirk of time and happenstance would have given me a last chance to say to her that I cared and appreciated her.
T was often seen walking dogs for out-of-town neighbors, and she was always kind and friendly. After her health problems in Colorado, I'm so pleased she made it back to Dallas and that she landed in a safe, warm place with people who were so ready to fall in love with her lovely spirit and buoy her up with their friendship. I'm glad she was in a place where she was loved. We should all be so lucky. Then again, I think T was loved because she was willing to love. Not a bad way to live.