We all like to believe in the idea of a happy Christmas, especially those of us who grew up with cartoons where the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes, the Misfit Toys find a home, and Charlie Brown and his friends learn the real meaning of Christmas.
But, of course, sad things happen at Christmas just as they do at any other time of the year. Today, when I came to work, I was told that our former colleague, Deborah, had died suddenly yesterday. She had retired just over a year ago after battling several illnesses in the previous years. But she had fought so bravely and persevered so long that I suppose we all thought that she would just keep on keeping on. But yesterday, after returning home from dialysis, she complained of chest pains, took two aspirin, went to bed, and never awoke.
Deborah was an institution in our library. She loved hats and jewelry and was always dressed with a certain flair. I still don’t know her secret to finding necklaces and shoes that could exactly match the color of her dresses.
During my years with her, she managed interlibrary loans. Deborah loved nothing better than hunting down a book for a patron. During my own dissertation, she rescued me enough times that I added her name to my acknowledgments page. She would fight to get an extension on a due date, but then she had no scruples about coming after you if the book did become overdue.
Being a lifelong Nashville resident, she stopped students she thought she recognized and would ask them if their mother went to a certain school or church or lived on a certain street. As often as not, she was right, and then the student would stop by to chat every so often.
But Deborah could be tough as well, especially with those who were noisy. Every so often, we were all startled to hear her voice over the microphone: “PLEASE PUT YOUR CELLPHONES AWAY. NO CELLPHONES IN THE LIBRARY.”
But what most inspired us all about Deborah was her perseverance to keep working and to keep making a contribution during several chronic illnesses. She was on dialysis three times a week, fought cancer, and suffered through heart problems. During the nine years we worked together, she lost her sister and her grandson. But she never lost her ability to enjoy life.