I really had hoped that by some divine miracle this post would never have to be published. Ashley was a young, vibrant, happy, and tenacious woman who lived life to its very fullest. My co-workers and I were blessed to know her for a relatively short period of time when she worked as a Secretary in our department. Given how fast time passes, I am not entirely sure how long ago it was, but at least five years. Sadly, Ashley succumbed earlier today to pancreatic cancer at way too young of an age – prior to her 30th birthday.
Ashley’s death was not the first tragedy to happen amongst my co-workers. Paul had died in Iraq after serving both in Bosnia and during the first Iraq war. And good Samaritan Chris had been killed by a wayward car while helping a stranded driver with a flat tire on a dark night.
If you work at a place long enough, I suppose tragedies are apt to happen at some point or another. While this is small consolation for those loved ones directly impacted by the loss, the individual and collective spirit(s) of these three still occupy their former cubicles and will remain with anyone who was privileged enough to know them personally. Paul’s untimely death could have been avoided if he had not be re-deployed for the umpteenth time, shortly after his daughter’s birth. Chris’ humor and easy-going demeanor complimented his kind and generous nature. Ashley put a brave face on her cancer diagnosis, by posting regular updates on her health and status on Facebook and by writing a blog entitled “Cancer-Kicking Girl.” As a result, each and every one of us who kept up with her posts were treated with a heart-warming and heart-wrenching portrayal of a human life being cut short by a sinister malady that no one should ever have to face. I still kick myself metaphorically for not attending a party in her honor in nearby Owosso a few years ago, when I had no real good reason not to attend.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said;“only true friends leave footprints in our heart.” That is very accurate, but I would like to expand upon her saying, because while Paul, Chris, and Ashley were co-workers, I could not say they were friends, beyond the Facebook definition. My amplification of Ms. Roosevelt’s quote would be, “everyone can leave footprints in our heart, as long as we let them in.” My sincere thanks go out to Paul, Chris, and Ashley for leaving them in mine.