Eight years ago, I moved to Maryland to help my parents and began a new job.
As I was organizing my tiny desk, I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Hi!” Its owner said with a large smile. “I’m V…. Welcome aboard! I’m here to teach you the ropes.”
Over her shoulder I could see a manager shaking her head in disapproval, while other workers around us were rolling their eyes skyward.
But V did teach me the “ropes,” for which I was grateful.
She really did know her stuff, and even more important to a neophyte like myself, she was willing to share it.
I had brought a lot of background to the position, and very quickly, I became a supervisor, eventually taking over responsibility for the team on which V served.
Some people would have resented this, but not V. Instead, she became my strongest supporter, sometimes to my own embarrassment.
V was the office decorator, especially at the holidays much to some people’s chagrin, as she was capable of going quite overboard.
She remembered your birthday with a balloon and glitter spread all over your desk, even if you were old enough to want to forget it.
She also designed, ordered, and presented some of the most beautiful floral arrangements I have seen.
V had led a hard life when I met her, and it didn’t get any better.
She suffered from various health concerns the whole time I knew her.
She was loud and boisterous, and she lived by a strict code of ethics of her own making that often estranged people.
She rubbed a lot of folks the wrong way, but in her heart, she cared deeply for those around her, whom she always saw as fellow beings no matter what their feelings were towards her.
Over and over, V canvassed our work area for donations to help others – for someone who was homeless, for someone whose grandchild had been killed, or for someone who had died.
Some never gave – simply looking away or shaking their heads, “No.”
Some gave occasionally – a little here, a little there, as they could.
Some gave continuously, always keeping a little extra cash tucked into a side pocket for V’s next appeal.
Whichever court you were in, it didn’t matter.
V never passed your desk by, always trusting you would do the right thing, regardless of your past history – giving you another chance to redeem yourself, such was her faith in you.
Two things filled V’s life, her job and her home, and it broke her heart when, slightly over a year ago, the research project on which we all worked came to a close.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as we were all dispersed by the wind.
Some of us found other positions in the same company, a few others found alternate employment quite quickly, but many of us are still unemployed over a year later.
After our separation, V was diagnosed with breast cancer.
A lifetime smoker, she kept right on puffing.
Her husband, it was learned, was also unemployed.
Friends, who had kept in touch with her, picked up the phone and began canvassing.
Such was the depth of V’s effect on us that, even from a crowd of largely unemployed workers – many of whom had moved on – large donations were accumulated to help her.
Yesterday, I learned that V passed away.
Ladies – get your mammograms yearly, no matter what the federal government or the news anchors tell you.
Smokers – stop now, before it’s too late.
All of us – let’s emulate V’s caring and giving spirit.
At the end of the day, it’s caring for and about others that leaves a real mark, and believe me, the footprint that V left behind on this earth is quite deep.
They say that nothing ever dies on the internet, so here’s to you V!
I loved you, and thanks again for showing us all a couple of Life’s most important “ropes.”