Friday, January 20, 2012

Warning: Serious Kyna Ahead

Went to a funeral last night for the first time in 10 years. Last one was my dad's in 2002.

A girl named Hannah that had been working with us at Barnes & Noble (usually I don't say the name of where I work, but since most every other bookstore is gone I might as well, right?) for the last few months died in a car wreck last Friday.

She was riding in the car with her boyrfriend late that night and they turned around at a really bad spot in the road (car accidents happen at this particular intersection all the time)  and the passenger side where she was located got plowed by another car. Her boyfriend lived and she died at the hospital she was taken to.

Extremely sad. The girl was only 21 years old.

Last Saturday, Chuck and I and a bunch of B&Ners went to a concert out in Atlantic Beach (I mentioned it a couple of posts ago).

While Chuckles and I were driving, there was a lull in conversation. I was silently looking out the window at the darkness, watching the beach houses go by. For no particular reason, I started wondering what would happen if one of us at B&N died. What if I died, actually.

Would the company send flowers? Would they close the store for the day? Would my co-workers show up for my funeral?

Yeah. Exactly. Why the fuck would I be thinking this? We were driving up to see a fun concert and hang out with friends. I guess it's just one of those uncontrollable things that brains do when they're bored.

Anyway, we get up to Atlantic Beach, and Chuckles and I stop to get a couple of subs to eat before the show.

I had to pee, and while I was in the bathroom my phone went off with a text alert in my bag hanging on the back of the stall door. The venue for the concert was in the same parking lot as the sub place, so I thought maybe one of my friends saw us drive in and wondered where the hell we were.

It was a text saying Hannah had been in a car accident the night before and had died.

Talk about a punch in the fucking gut.

I came out of the bathroom in total shock. I had just been thinking about the death thing on the way up there, and then I get this text?

Yeah, I know. Coincedence. Synchronicity. Or maybe I just felt something. I don't know. It all gets chalked up to 'freaky'.

I'm not going to pretend Hannah and I were best buds or anything. She hadn't worked at B&N for very long. If it had been one of the people I'd known there since the beginning, you'd be scraping me off the floor with a spatula right now. I'd be completely non-functional.

But Hannah was a sweet and lovely girl, and only 21...there one minute, and gone the next.

Do you know how relieved I am that I was nice to her the last time I saw her?

Last Wednesday (the night before my vacation started) she was my person for customer service and I was the manager for the evening.

Hannah had been having a very bad day and was not herself. Normally the girl was like sunshine a happy puppy (and I'm not saying this just because she's dead, she really was one of the most positive people I've ever met) but she was just so sad that night.

She asked me around 7:30 if I wouldn't mind her going home. Since it was pin-drop quiet (I normally would use the term 'dead', but in this case that's inappropriate) in the store that evening, I said sure and that I hoped she had a better night. And she died the day after that.

I'm so glad I didn't make her feel bad about asking me to leave or anything like that. Not that I'm a fucking doucheface all the time or anything, but at work sometimes we can all get under each other's skin and say things to each other that we don't mean when we irritate each other. I'm glad this wasn't one of those times, because I would've felt like an asshole forever.

B&N is my family. We all love each other like family. We get on each other's nerves like family. We fight with each other like family. We spend more time with each other than we do with our 'real' families.

Last night, pretty much everyone that didn't have to work (the store did indeed stay open through the funeral...I think maybe if she had worked there longer, there may have been other arrangements made) went to the service. B&Ners took up two whole rows of seating. I was proud of us.

There was an amazing amount of people there to pay their respects. We stood in line for about 30-40 minutes to file past the open casket to the seating area.

Poor Hannah did not look like herself. I know it's a clichĂ© thing that people say when viewing a dead body, but she just didn't. The effects from the accident were very apparent.

I didn't think it would affect me that badly to see her. My heart started beating really fast. My knees and hands started getting all shaky and I started tearing up. She was just so fucking young.

And they were playing what I assume were some of her favourite songs while we were waiting for the rest of the people to file in. The girl loved classic rock, and apparently she had a huge vinyl record collection. We remarked to each other that a few of us would have to alter our iPod playlists. I can never listen to 'Break On Through' by The Doors or The Beatles' 'Yellow Submarine' again without thinking of Hannah lying there in that casket.

It's amazing how much you learn about a person at their funeral. Oh, I know it's all the good things about a person and never the bad, but that's ok. I think all of us deserve a time to have wonderful things said about us, that everyone can hear.

I don't think any of us at work knew just how talented she was. She loved music and art. They had quite a few pieces of it on display. She was very mischievous and fun-loving and what Southern people like to call 'wide open'.

Even though I wasn't close with her, I lost it twice. The first time was when they played 'Come Sail Away' by Styx in between eulogies. Jesus, I don't know why that one got me, but it did.

And the second time was while they were describing what kind of person she was. Independent, different, spirited, living life to the fullest, was always trying to make people happy...I felt like I could be sitting at my fucking funeral. That's what I imagine people might say about me. That took away the rest of my mascara...

We all had to hug it out in the parking lot afterwards.

I came home with no makeup and a headache. There's nothing like facing down your own mortality to give you a good one.

The day before the funeral, I also got a text saying that a good co-worker friend's sister had died on the way to the doctor that morning. Two death texts in one week. Jesus. I'm afraid to open my phone now.

Some good news though. The dude that was in the band that we went to see? Bennie? He became a father that very same day.

Two lives end and another one begins.

Yes, by all means, cue up 'The Circle of Life'...

I'm going to really need a new damn dress though. I wore the same dress to two weddings and a funeral in the past 6 months.

Two more weddings, and I'd have a Hugh Grant movie.

Anyway, I just had to get that all out. Writing really clears my head.

I know I'm not normally this serious, and I don't like bringing my readers down. But y'all are also my friends, so I figure you wouldn't mind a non-happy, nearly pictureless post once in awhile.


Joenathan said...

Very sorry to hear about your co-worker, Kyna. On the "circle of life" tip, back when my Mom passed away at Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro in '99, just a few doors down, a friend of mine was about to give birth to her daughter. More recently, shortly after my oldest brother Jerry died in 2009 we finally heard from his long lost daughter that he had out of wedlock back in the late 60s. In fact, he had never met her. Most everyone in my family has met her now. It doesn't change the fact that my brother is gone but knowing that there's another life out there does provide a bit of comfort.

Rohrerbot said...

Hey, I know I know. Everything becomes very surreal in moments like is this really happening? It takes time to process it all and makes you realize how fragile it all is. One of my former students who I encouraged to travel did....and was hit by a drunk motorist. He almost died but is now at a hospital fighting for his life. I feel terrible. Was it my words that inspired him to this tragic event? We start thinking about things like this...was I nice to her before she died? Did I send him to his possible death? The simple fact is that you can't control fate. And I think that's also the best part about getting older. Imagine what her boyfriend will think about when he has fully recovered. He'll probably blame himself and he didn't have any control over that....the guilt. It's moments like these that give us pause in our lives to appreciate the ones around us. My thoughts are with her family and boyfriend. Hang in there.

Chris said...

So sorry to hear of your work colleague passing Kyna.

I know I was really just starting to enjoy life at 21 and I guess that must be one of the most tragic things about going at such a young age, so much that could have been done and experienced, love to give and receive, lives to touch.

Nice that she had such fab work colleagues at B&N. She was obviously amongst friends there.


Curbstone Valley Farm said...

I agree, entirely too young. I am so sorry. My best friend lost her fiancee in a similar accident, and I've seen what she's gone through over the years. I can't imagine how her boyfriend feels, being in the same car. I'm glad you wrote this post though. Now we know, on the other side of your blog, how special a person Hannah was too. A good reminder to live life for the now, here, in the present, and to cherish it. Sending hugs. - Clare

John Gray said...

I am an expert on funerals believe me...
roll with the punches, drink too much wine and have a cry x

Chad B said...

Kyna, I was very sorry to read about Hannah's death but I am glad you wrote about it as well. Eventually we all experience something like this. It's a good, but painful, reminder that life sometimes sucks out loud and maybe it really does matter how we act toward others.

Al said...

Sudden deaths are terrible especially when the person is so young.
Take care.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear you have such wonderful coworkers. Can I tell you about mine? Keep in mind these people are all about 45-60 years old, working at AT&T. Fred left work on Friday night, happy to start his vacation week. He got home and died of a heart attack. No one went to the funeral. NO ONE. He had worked for our company for 35 years, and NOT ONE of the 60 people that he saw daily in his office could trouble themselves to go.
My group worked down the hall, but merged with this group a few weeks after. We knew what happened, and I asked WHY. They said "because we're idiots" (that may have been sarcasm) and "he was a grump" and "he kept to himself."
So yeah, it's natural to wonder who would come to your funeral. It shouldn't happen, but there are the Freds and the Eleanor Rigbys of the world.
You and your co-workers who attended the funeral were great. It no doubt helped the grieving family to know the pews were full, that Hannah touched the lives of others. That all we really want, isn't it? Bless you all for going. ---Lisa

The Idiot Gardener said...

It's always a shitter...

I can't listen to Dylan and Cash doing North County Girl for the same reason.

Nothing funny to add, I'm afraid!

Jayne said...

I'm sorry to hear of Hannah's passing, Kyna. One good thing is that you B&N family came together for the funeral. I often wonder who will be at my funeral. All my family is in England.

Alison said...

I'm so glad your last interaction with your co-worker was so friendly. I understand the circle of life thing too. The day after my mom died the family found out her pregnant grand-daughter (my niece) was going to have a girl. It was the songs (hymns) at my mom's funeral that got to me too.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Stories like that break my heart. Someone like me who has lived a life of adventure should be the one to go in place of a young person with so much more life to live.

It doesn't surprise me that a person with so much life inside them like you would be able to sense a problem in the universe. My mother has that same 'gift'.

Kyna said...

Jonathan: Funny how that happens, eh? Life is crazy. And unfair.

Rohrerbot: Her boyfriend is blaming himself I'm sure. Her family's not angry with him at all, but he was torn up at the funeral.

Chris: I know, that's when I really started to enjoy life as well. Put the teenage shit behind me and REALLY become myself.

I love B&N, I'd have a hard time working anywhere else. A friend of mine worked for the same gov't department for like 25 years, a lot of the people were there that long, and she said they never had anything like we have at B&N, that feeling of closeness.

Clare: Thanks for reading :) I felt much better after I wrote this.

John: And I haven't been to very many at all. Four actually, the one of my dad's being the biggest one.

I did indeed have wine and a cry though lol. Good advice ;)

Chad: I absolutely think it matters how we live our lives and act towards other people. I don't always remember that, but this made me think about it. I'm a pretty good person, I think. But I'm sure we all can be better people.

Al: Thank you!

Lisa: That makes me pretty sad actually. I'd have a very hard time working for a place like that, where people don't really care about each other or notice each other. Sometimes people are grumps because they don't think anyone cares about them.

IG: It's all good. I'll forgive you not being funny, if you forgive me this once! :)

Jayne: Thanks. Same here. All mine's in Canada. My coworker friends assured me that if I died, they'd be there. I guess that makes me feel better? LOL ;)

Alison: My dad's funeral had the most heart-wrenching music. He was the Director for Native Education in Alberta, and everyone knew him and liked him. His funeral was huge. It was Catholic, but they had Native singers/dancers come in and perform to walk the family in. Fuck...nothing as soul-shredding as hearing those wails and drums as you're walking into your father's was beautiful though.

Cal: I know, life is not fucking fair. When Chuck tells me about his life before he met me, when he was young, I always ask how he isn't dead yet. All the things he went through. You know about the cancer, but there was a lot of other shit. Maybe he's just supposed to be here. And maybe she isn't. It's fucked up.

Flâneur Gardener said...


I guess that all there is to say, really.

Sarah said...

So very sorry to hear this.

You're never really ready for someone in your life to be taken away, but when it's so unexpected and happens to someone so young and with so much of life left to live...yeah, it punches you in the gut.

I'm glad your B&N family showed her other loved ones how much she mattered to all of you who had only met her such a short time ago. It helps for those left behind.