Saturday, January 17, 2015

No Smoking

Seven years ago, my dear friend Billy expressed incredulity when we got the news that Bitching Bubbly Smoking Nonsmoker had been fired, and escorted off the premises of our former workplace. "But she was one of the main characters!" he protested.

Her name was Cheryl, and she died this past week after a few years' battle with cancer. According to the relative who posted the news on her Facebook page, the cancer was beaten - she'd been cancer-free for six months, though she was still undergoing some surgeries. The cause of death appears to have been heart failure.

This is hardly surprising. She kept an upbeat tone, but from the updates she posted on Facebook it was evident she had a crushing amount to deal with: trying to find and keep work, conflicting instructions from doctors, losing her condo off Live Oak, health insurance, diagnoses, moving, the death of her father, moving again, unemployment benefits, finding a job, being laid off, more surgeries, etc. etc. etc. She was matter-of-fact and resolutely un-whiny about any of it, but did occasionally find time to bite the heads off well-wishers ("Stop calling me 'brave!' There's nothing brave about it! What else am I supposed to do, lie down and die?!") Being seriously ill brings with it such a devastating load of things to stress out about that heart attacks seem like a natural side effect of otherwise treatable health issues.

I thought it was funny that she bitched about "Obummer" and continued fiercely criticizing Obamacare, without which health insurance would have been unavailable to her. So she was disinterested, at least. She requested advice on upgrading her computer without losing data; some commenters recommended backing everything up on an external hard drive, and one suggested she contact a mutual acquaintance with a lot of experience in the area. She was short with that suggestion: "He pissed me off once and I won't talk to him anymore."

I hope someone told her that the Sheriff, who managed the Herculean task of firing Cheryl from a state agency, was forced to resign this past year. I wish I had. Cheryl called the Sheriff "Dr. Crummy" and carried a bit of a grudge, understandably enough. It was years later, and hardly the ignominious defeat that Cheryl (and others) suffered at the Sheriff's hands, but at least something happened eventually. And again, in a state agency, that's saying something. Still, the fact is, minus the Sheriff's interference, Cheryl would have coasted along a few more years to retirement, and her life would have been considerably less stressful - therefore, most likely, longer.

Cheryl was never unkind or hurtful, just grouchy. What would the world be without curmudgeons? She smoked, she quit; she groused, she worked hard to be positive. I remember trying to help her with a jamming copier once and she stopped and took a breath and closed her eyes. "You're trying to help," she said. "You're very sweet. Please just walk away now." And you have to respect that, really, more than someone who is always bubbly and sweet and nice to your face and then goes and writes mocking blog posts about you, don't you?

Bon voyage to you, Cheryl. Give Heaven hell.

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