One of the emails was an invitation to a memorial service.
I had to read it over several times, not certain at first of what I was seeing, not wanting to think that this had happened.
The young woman who once managed the coffee shop died last week, at age 26. I sit here writing this now, and tears flow down my face. I have to wipe them away to be able to see the screen.
Jenn was simply a beautiful girl, with shining long blonde hair and a gorgeous face, always smiling. She was the first person I ever met at the coffee shop, and she took the time to learn my name, what I liked to order, would always ask what I was up to that day. She had a lovely calm to her, a groundedness that made her seem older than her years. Over the years, we would chat about whatever was going on in our lives in the moments while my drink was being made, and I liked her even more with every interaction we had. She was funny, smart, and thoughtful. It was always good to see her there, a nice constant presence.
One day as my daughter and I made one of our after-school coffee shop stops for a mid-afternoon treat, we found Jenn saying her goodbyes to a few of the other regulars. She was leaving for Colorado, where she had family, and leaving the shop. Oh no!, I said, genuinely sorry to see her go, but I wished her the best of luck and told her how much I had enjoyed seeing her there. We chatted awhile about Colorado, the mountains, life outside of the hustle and bustle of metro areas, what she would be doing, and we exchanged contact info. We hugged goodbye, and she said she'd be back up to Washington for visits as often as she could.
And now she returns, to be buried. At age 26.
Jenn had many friends, who knew her far, far better than I did, and who will feel the loss even more acutely. I just feel so sad for them. At 26, you are just beginning, and that is truly what breaks my heart. Not everyone gets to stay here to grow and change, see and do, and keep connecting with the world. You make a difference every day you are here, and sometimes that difference is made just by offering a smile to a weary mom low on caffeine on a grey rainy afternoon, who could really use a moment of sunshine.
Rest well, dear sunshine girl.
James Taylor, "Fire and Rain"