OK, i have had a few hours to adjust to the idea of losing one of my best friends
. What I will not be able to adjust to is what, it seems, happened.
I've told you before that part of my morning routine is to watch the first few minutes of the local news. This gets me the newest news from overnight without having to sit through the weather and sports. This morning I heard about another person being hit by a train in the area. This has become a rarity since the city moved all railroad tracks into a corridor running along the river. In the county, though, tracks still cross roads at street level, some without lights or crossbars of any type. Yesterday there was a report of a man (I believe homeless) that was wandering across the train corridor when he was hit by a locomotive. This morning, I heard another report...very similar. A woman was found laying near the tracks close to a small town called Colburn at about 2:00 am. This is where it slams home.
When I was a senior in high school, I started working in the Business Office at the Purdue University Health Center (PUSH). My mother worked there in another department and we tended to have the same friends. Two of the women I worked with were Cherie and Pam. We got along great...although we were a bit mis-matched as friends. I was the 17-18-19 year old gay boy, Pam and Cherie were both in their late 30's. (Just a couple years younger than my mother.) Pam was once-divorced with 4 children and Cherie was never married, although she had lived with LC since she was 19 - almost 20 years. They were friends with my mother, too...and when my mom died in 1999, they stepped in as surrogates...becoming Mom #2 and Mom #3. (Whichever one I was talking to was #2...sneaky, lol) They kept me on the (kinda) straight and (sort of) narrow...keeping me out of trouble, offering a shoulder to lean on, an extra place at the table, or a bed when I might need it. We became more than friends, we were family.
Through the years, after I left the health center and went on to work retail, I would still stop over about once a month for lunch with my PUSH girls. People came and went, but Pam and Cherie were always there. We would head to one of the hotels in town for a nice lunch (and maybe a drink). We were always close, heading out for a movie, shopping, drinks, roadtrip...everything. Pam and Cherie really were my mothers...better than I expected after losing my own. I've known them since I was 10...and they had lost their best friend when I lost my mom. They knew how I was feeling at the time...Cherie, especially, because she lost her mom at the same age under similar circumstances of cancer. Pam and I shared the problem of depression and we often acted as a safety net for each other, noticing when things were a little too out of balance.
Now, 6 1/2 years later, we don't see each other as much as we used to...but when I got the invitation to Pam's wedding a few months ago, I cleared my schedule for the evening. (I knew this would not be an early-ending evening, lol) I missed there ceremony, but joined them just as the reception was starting and the kegs were flowing. It was a great night with lots of laughing and lots of tears. Pam and my mother were so similar...Pam, too, had seemingly found happiness with her second marriage. They made a great couple and a huge family. When it came time for everyone to do their dances with the bride and groom, Pam invited me to take a turn. I went to the DJ and asked him to play James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend" when our dance began. When Pam recognized the song she held me at arm's length and, with tears in her eyes, said, "Thanks, Matty...You've always got a friend in me." That was the last time I saw her.
Cherie called me at work today at noon. There were only four words that made it to my ears before I heard her tears, "Matt, there's bad news." She told me Pam had been in an accident...she didn't know the details, but they found her by the side of the road. I couldn't talk because I was on the selling floor and Cherie was busy, too...I told her I would call her when I got home. I went to our HR manager and told her what happened, and that I was leaving when Holly got in for the day. I got home around 2:00 and called Cherie. She started telling me the details. Evidently, she and her husband had been having a few problems...nothing big, but some disagreements. They had taken the weekend to get away to Wisconsin...work things out. She was supposed to be back at work Monday morning. Well, Monday came and went with no word from Pam. Tuesday was the same story. Someone finally got her on the phone last night and she said she was sorry, but had needed some time to work on some personal problems. Unfortunately, no one knew she had run out of her meds...and didn't have money to get her scrip filled. She had fallen into a depression that no one could help her with because none of us knew.
Her car had been wrecked, but not badly enough to have seriously injured someone. The locomotive operator said he saw a woman walking up the tracks, and did not move when he sounded the horn. 911 operators responded to a call and found her around 2:00 this morning. It feels like I've lost my mother all over again. It hurts just as bad as I remember...and there's no right way to feel, just like then.
(Thank you all for the nice words everyone has already sent my way. I, unlike Pam, know when to talk about things...and I certainly do.)