I remember that morning quite vividly. I had arrived at the store very early. It was in the spring of 2010. I was battling an episode of depression. I was tired and uncertain of the turn my life had taken. You listened to my heart and held me as I wept on your shoulder. It was a moment of compassion that I needed, a time when our two totally different worlds met in an embrace of empathy.
I had worked for your family since early 1993. You had watched me struggle over the years with some personal matters, but I had kept them separate from my work at the store. As a devoted and trustworthy employee, I had given the best I could to my work at the store. On that morning when I came to you, you did not hesitate to listen to what I had to say. You were also going through some personal changes in your life and briefly shared with me what they were. It was a defining moment in our relationship for me.
I made the decision to move back home in August of 2012. My parents were getting up in age and needed someone to be there for them. My dad had turned 90 in June of that year. My mom was 87. They were healthy, but they knew that their health could deteriorate quickly at their age. I knew in my heart that returning home was the right thing to do, so I gave my notice and worked my last day at the store on August 31, 2012.
Due to my dad’s gallbladder episode and surgery, I had not returned to Maryland since April 2013. Prior to that, I had made the trip there once or twice a month to visit. I always made a point to stop in and say hello. You made sure to ask about my mom and dad and catch up with what was happening in my life.
The first phone call I received concerning your sickness was on October 23, 2013. I knew your family always kept personal matters private, so I sent them a two-line email letting them know I had heard of your illness and you were in my prayers. I knew I was going to be making a trip to Maryland on Monday, December 2, so I decided I would see you then. I received updates over the following weeks concerning what was happening with you. Though the reports were not good, I was not prepared for the message I received on November 23. You had contracted pneumonia, and the doctors placed you on a ventilator. Two days later, on November 25, you passed away. It was all too surreal. How could this have happened?
I drove to Maryland on Wednesday, November 27, to attend your funeral. It was there that I heard more details of what had happened. I was told that seven weeks ago you woke up on a Sunday and began vomiting. The following day your doctor ordered multiple tests to determine what was wrong. By the end of the day, he told you that you had stage four lung cancer. He said it was terminal. There was absolutely nothing that could be done for you. Within seven weeks, the cancer had taken your life.
Your funeral was a somber occasion. It was attended by family, friends, store personnel, and members of the music retail community, numbering in the hundreds. Everyone was in disbelief. The vibrant and fearless life you had lived had been extinguished within seven weeks by the ruthlessness of cancer. I always viewed you as invincible. The news of your death had shaken my world. Though I know we are all mortal, you always seemed larger than life in my eyes. Now, I sit 220 miles away from the store in my home. The void in my heart caused by your passing is still with me. I cannot imagine how those who remain at the store are dealing with that void. I will never forget that morning in 2010; I will never forget what you taught me; I will never forget you.