Yesterday was my birthday. I went to work, that’s it. Honestly, I was just glad to have a routine day. And thanks to all who sent birthday wishes. Every one was truly appreciated.
I’m sure all of us enjoy it when we find someone else with the same birthday we have. As I understand it, June 25th is the 100th most common birthdate of the year. I’ve met a few June 25thers over the years- at Church, at work, and a few other places. But a couple of years ago I found a story about two other June 25th birthdays. It is a sad story, but I won’t soon forget because, well, it’s June 25th.
A Heart Truly Broken
I’m not sure anymore that the information age is such a good thing. Sometimes, maybe it’s best not to know.
I started a new job in late 1977. I was 19. It was an aircraft engine maintenance job in a building with 600 other men and a tiny handful of women who worked in the office. In the mornings, when I was being dropped off at the door, I would occasionally make eye contact with a stunning young blonde. I would later learn she was only 17 years old. I was too shy to even mumble a “Hello”.
Some years later, I was engaging in my “standard” practical joke of writing my birthday on calenders whenever I visited the company offices. It was just a goofy thing I did. I would flip some strangers calender to June 25 and write “Brent’s Birthday” on that date.
One day, while working in my dirty back room covered with solvent and knee deep in engine parts, that beautiful girl walked in holding a calender and asked, “Is this you?”. She was pointing at my birthday. I couldn’t deny that I was the guy who was writing on calenders. She said, “That’s my birthday too!”.
We became the best of friends. She was an incredibly sweet and trusting girl…not something that seemed to fit her breathtaking looks. We talked to each other about the most personal things in our lives. I was surprised that a girl would trust me with such intimate facts about her hopes and fears. And, to this day, I’ve never shared details about myself the way I shared them with her.
10 years after starting with that company, I left. My other friends told me that, when I left, she wouldn’t stop crying. But, even after I left, I’d phone her at work and take her out to lunch once in awhile. One day, I phoned the company and was told she wasn’t there anymore. Odd as it may seem, I didn’t have her home phone number. After all of those years, it hadn’t dawned on me that she wouldn’t be there.
It was 20 years ago when I last saw her and a day hasn’t gone by that I didn’t think about her. I still have a couple of birthday cards she gave me. When the internet came along, I thought I’d try to search for her. It never worked. I figured she surely would have gotten married and searching on a maiden name from years ago wouldn’t do much good. But I always kept trying. I always thought it would be so much fun to see her again and I imagined that reunion would be a blast. Every few days I’d google her name. Tonight, I finally got a hit:
“After a courageous battle with cancer, on March 19, 2001, at Riverview Health Centre, Sherri Rose passed away at the age of 38 years.”
I immediately tried coming up with reasons why it couldn’t be her. But it was her. There was a photo, that birth date, the unusual middle name.
I have a stack of old day planners. I actually found my personal notes from March 19, 2001. I had written a reminder to myself to go shopping for the DVD of West Side Story.
I did more research. At the time of her death, she was involved in a long and heavily contested divorce (the records are online). Her house was ordered to be sold by the court just days before she died. She had two young children at the time. From our personal conversations years earlier, I know she had a terrible fear of cancer. She died before the divorce was granted.
I want to see the silver lining but I see none. She died from the thing she feared most. She died losing her house and leaving a young family.
I’m just sick…sick and heartbroken.