Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Goodbye Virginia

What a day.

Both times I was briefly hospitalized for depression (weeklong timeouts), I followed with a period at a rehab day program, Bridgeway House. There's not much at Bridgeway to interest me, but the staff is terrific, & there's some kickass old school social workers. I'm an "alumnus" & I wander over there every springtime to help out with the annual art show, since I have experience hanging exhibits & take instructions well from the art teacher who organizes it. Once in awhile I'd drop by to discuss some matter with Virginia, who had been my assigned counselor there, & was a steadfast friend & always kept her door open. She called me "Bobbalink" whenever I walked in, & would invariably ask loud enough for everyone in the art room to hear, "Why aren't you coming to art class? We miss you." She had heard every story, faced every situation you could throw at her, nothing shocked her, nothing upset her except bigotry of any type & institutional indifference. She was lovely woman, quite large, but always dressed with a flair. She was Greek Orthodox, proudly so, loved explaining the rituals, festivals, & Julian calendar (I think her church was "new" calendar).

I hadn't been over to Bridgeway since early December. I hadn't encountered anyone from Bridgeway since then, unusual to go that long without seeing Bridgeway people in the supermarket or 7-11. I went to Bridgeway around 3 today, when activities are ending but before the staff meetings begin, good time to get a staffer's ear for a couple of minutes. I needed a phone number for the Bridgeway team that helps with housing problems, & some reassurance. I looked up at the staff in/out roster by the reception desk &, ominously, Virginia's name was not even listed. I quietly asked the woman at the desk, who I've known for a long time, if there was something she needed to tell me about Virginia.

Virginia died unexpectedly on December 28th, during surgery. There's only one person who might have thought to phone me about it, the part-time art teacher, & no doubt he was too traumatized to think. Many of us adored Virginia. I don't regret letting so much time pass between visits to Bridgeway to see Virginia - that's how it is when you're done participating in the daily program. You're still family. I do regret that this tragedy got by me & I missed the funeral & being with all of Virginia's friends. They're still mourning her, & now so am I.

photo: Wisteria at Bridgeway House

My sympathies on the loss of your friend. She sounds like a swell Elizabeth girl.
I'm sorry for your loss. It sounds like this is a loss that will be felt by many.
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