Bitter Sweet

Two more days to go. I’ve almost cleared everything out of my office. I took the last pictures to my car and gave away the last of the documents to be saved to the librarian. This office that I’ve worked in for over six years is almost bare.

The little cubby, in homage to its previous occupant, Adele, is still filled with a few of her things. But, I’ve taken the things I want to remember her by. And, now that so many of the things of hers and mine are now out of here I feel the bitter sweetness of my departure.

After I rejoined the company in 2003 – the year of her death – I asked for her office right away, but it took about a year for anyone to open her door and dare to disturb what she had left in there. Of course while she was still alive she dictated how some of her papers and books would be distributed – she actually had a excel spreadsheet documenting what was on each of her shelves, and she designated whom would get what. However, by the time I got the office – about 6 months after she died – there were still hordes of her stuff still there – including about five extra pieces of office furniture. Right away I gave a huge amount to the library, threw some away, and then kept the remainder on the same shelves she had them on and in the same notebooks. I also cleared out the extra furniture and rearranged what was left. It was a grueling thing to do. I also felt so badly about disturbing her stuff.

What drew me to Adele was her creativity. While she was well we went to art exhibits together from time to time. She always knew where the most unusual exhibits were. And then after she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer she decided to go immediately into hospice – bypassing any kind of chemotherapy the doctors might have offered her. I admire her for that. She dictated how she would live and how she would die. And, it was certain she didn’t want to endure the debilitating effects of chemo. She was able to sit up in her hospital bed, entertain her friends – insisting they make an appointment to see her so she could use the time she had left only seeing those who mattered to her, pursue some of the art projects she still had the strength to do – little book marks and postage stamp sized collages, and plan her death. She read a little though she didn’t want to tackle lengthy books. I brought her books of poetry. Once in a while she’d even listen to something I wrote.

So, leaving this office where she and I spent so many years is tough. Yet, I’ve integrated her into my home as well. I have a photo of her in our bedroom – on the same table with other family pictures, including Paul’s. Her photo stands just under the collage we bought directly from her. We also have the collage we received from her collection the night of the party we held in her memory. It’s in the family room. And I’ll add the piece she made for us after Paul died to my office wall. So Adele will still be with me. Does this sound morbid? Perhaps. But I’m a believer in keeping memories alive.

What I find is the most bitter sweet about my leaving this room is that whoever takes it over won’t know or care about the person Adele who once inhabited it. The department has so few of the people left who worked with her. Really that’s a good thing. Change is good and to be expected. Yet, what she gave to this department and this company was so special, she deserves to be remembered. Unfortunately, I’m probably the last one here who made sure that happened.

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