She was so young and had so much life ahead of her. I was there when she died.
Her family meant everything to her. Her son had been accepted to college that week. She and her mother, living twenty minutes apart for years, were soon to move into a duplex in the Northeast. Private person as she was, she spoke of her son’s accomplishments, beaming, glowing, smiling. She and her mother would go out to eat around the city, always eager to try new restaurants. She’d ask me for recommendations. Her girlfriends told me she might do some dating after her son left for college.
We were all there, all of us who worked together in North Philly for so many years. It was a celebration and we went to a place downtown. Food and drink were served and no one was happier than her. She and I spoke of the latest with her son and mother but our conversation ended prematurely when one of our friends approached and shook our hands and we all laughed at whatever he said.
Half an hour later, she sat at one of the reserved tables chatting with another friend and I was still standing nearby. Her eyes had already closed by the time I turned around and saw that something was wrong. She gasped for air in heaves, unconscious, and we all stood helpless, waiting, after one of us called 911. The ambulance arrived within minutes, but it was already too late.
There were no warning signs, no pre-existing conditions. One moment alive, conversing, smiling like always. The next moment was her last.
I’ll never forget that day and I’ll never take people for granted. I ate at a place last week she would’ve loved. I wish I could tell her about the gnocchi.