13 years.  I spent 13 years working at my last job.  That is a long time to make friends out of co-workers.  I realize that working at a nursing home I had been exposed to more loss than other professions, but it never got easier.  Each resident was special and had a story all their own.  Nothing can prepare you for hearing about the passing of a loved one.  I was blindsided last week when I heard about my former co-worker Susan’s passing.  We had just spoke on the phone last month.  She sent Baby Beretta a birthday card and we sent her a thank you card last week.  I don’t even know if she read it.

What I do know is that I did not have enough time with her.  13 years was not long enough.  She was the biggest reason I didn’t want to leave my old job and make the move to Assisted Living.  We both knew that our best days were behind us, we had so much fun bringing life to that place.  So I moved on and we stayed in touch.  Even though we didn’t work together anymore we made plans to celebrate my birthday because there was no one else I wanted to see.  She made everyone feel so special and important.  She was like an extra mom.  Comforting, loyal and unconditionally supportive.

I was just talking about her on the radio, too.  She was the girl that I helped collect all those restaurant menus for.  She is the girl that was with me in the beauty shop when the pipes burst and we laughed that it could have been a sign that Baby Beretta was coming soon (and it was…she was born one week early!)  Sue is the girl that would pick out the awesome themed costumes for Halloween.  One year we dressed up as the H1N1 Virus and the nurses thought we were crazy.  She was the worker that created fun and meaningful experiences for residents before they came buzzwords like “Person Centered Care”.

I am so grateful for the time we had, but I still want more.  I was supposed to take care of her in 20 years when she got old.  It’s not fair, I miss her so much.  My only comforting thought is that she is saying hello to the hundreds of residents we lost while we worked together.  At least she will be in good company.