Saturday, December 23, 2023



She was at the library when I started working here, and I worked with her for almost 20 years. She was exactly the age of my own parents. And when I first met her she was about the age I am now. 

So why not write her eulogy here, while I'm at the front desk of this very library she worked in for 30 years? It might be her only eulogy. She requested no memorial service, which, in my best guess, would accord with a funny lack of fuss she had. So let's let this one be a plain eulogy, neither glowing nor condemnatory. I just knew the scraps of her anyway. That's how we know our co-workers, endlessly, in close-up detail, and then in a weirdly distant overview, but never holistically. And it's been a decade too since I spent three days a week with her in the vaguely common cause of library work, so all I'm really left with, despite the thousands of hours, are a few handfuls of anecdotes and impressions anyway.

The first thing I have to report then is that she was always healthy. Indeed, she was notorious for it, a hearty, athletic person who aged without ever seeming to get ill or have any physical problems, at least that I knew of. I would get every cold and flu, and burn through vacation time with back problems, but she was always there in perfect fitness. A half day of mild sniffles for her seemed a pure and outrageous exotica. It was only long after she retired, very late in life, and after becoming a library patron for many more hearty years, in her mid-eighties, that she somewhat abruptly became a little old lady.

And then, like that, 88 years old, she dropped dead outside of her house.

Her biographical data was in some newspaper someone here made a copy of and put in the breakroom. It listed the two sons, the grandkids, the long dead husband. I'm not here for that. 

Here are the bits I'm here for:

1. She was wild about F. Scott Fitzgerald. Strongly convinced that The Great Gatsby was as magnificent a piece of literature as could be written, she went so far as to attend many conferences, some over multiple days, concerning Fitzgerald, and even, occasionally, loyally, Hemingway, perhaps as much for the relationship between the two, as in admiration for his work.

2. She had the almost spooky ability to cause technology to break in spectacular ways just by her presence. This was perhaps a liability working at a library, and was compounded some by her sense of trepidation around technology, which further caused her to break computers and their like through quietly panicked, unhinged actions.

3. She really wouldn't approve of me sitting at the desk of the library writing this, though she did approve of my writing in general. Her solution to her disapproval might be to try to hand me work to do, or just shove it significantly in my direction.

4. Twenty-three years ago, when I took pictures for my portraits of all my co-workers at the library, she camped it up and scowled meanly at my camera. When I called her bluff and painted her just as she posed, she made me promise never to show her portrait to anyone.

4. Her best friend I have only ever known as "Bunny".

5. If she didn't want to do something at work she would try to give it to someone else to do, flattering them that they were so good at, as in "Oh, will you turn on these computers? You're so good at that!"

6. Her most common and interesting stories were always of the more eccentric of her two sons. The tales of his (and their- they did a fair bit together, notably taking care of a piece of rural land together) adventures were funny, and evenly mixed with her disapproval and engaged amusement. I may have gotten a disproportionate amount of these stories due to her seeing a kind of kinship between me and him.

7. She was whacky, forbidding, funny, stoic, secretly smart, cold, proper, ridiculous, mean, respectful of authority, kind, conscientious, self-effacing, bold, hilarious, and appropriate. I don't know that this string of adjectives says anything at all, and yet to me it speaks of a generation disappearing in a way that spells out all of the disaster and hope for the future of the world. 

And that is my eulogy for my colleague.

If I could see her just one more time, I would ask her:

"What is it like to be dead?"

And she would cluck at me like I am a reprehensible, but maybe slightly delightful, scamp. 

And then she would answer something funny. 


  1. Thank you for this tribute to a beautiful person and a treasured friend.


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