An absolute fact of life is that death chooses when to visit us.
An older woman, most likely in her late 40’s to early 50’s visited my work today. Two other sleepy individuals accompanied her, a younger male and female, possibly boyfriend and girlfriend; all without question lethargic to life.
I was rounding the corner, heading to the stock room in back to dispose of two trash bags in my hands, when the man gently calls out, “Could you help us with something?” “Yes, of course”, I genuinely reply, tucking the unsightly bags underneath a table, removing them from sight.
The man hands me a small black USB flash drive and asks if I can print a file contained within. “It’s a bookmark and I was wondering if you could touch it up and laminate it for me,” he explained. “We don’t have publisher or any of those programs so, I was hoping that I could get some help here.”
Inside the office supply shop is a print shop as well. Our main associate, or guru as I often refer to him as, was tied up with an elderly couple over at the self-serve station. Called self-serve, customers are able to print, scan and fax for a cheaper fee, as long as they go about it themselves. Well, exceptions are often made for our venerable customers.
We all move behind the counter to the workstation where we usually design upon request. I offer the young man a chair; he declines, instead offers rest to the older lady standing beside.
“Is the file called bookmark?” I ask, simulatenously as a file called bookmark appears on the screen. The man nods his head, which I take as permission to proceed. And proceed is what I do.
“See, it’s too bare. I would like to have some type of border around the outside”. The older lady expounded on her request by opening her flip phone and showing me a pixelated image of hearts coalesced with green vines and colorful butterflies. “Can you wrap this around the outside?” she inquired. “Ma’am, I would love to place this image around the bookmark, but it’s pretty small. If we enlarge it, it’s going to become very pixelated,” I said benevolently, considering her countenance.
Distressed the lady exhales deeply. Letting out frustration, not against me, but toward life and the unexpectedness in which it ‘giveth’ and ‘taketh’. “Well, do you have an example I can look at?”
“Hey Quinn, is there some sort of folder with default images that we use for customers?” I yell out across the room. Quinn, still with the elderly couple and beyond aggravated, turns and shakes his head no.
“Ma’am, we don’t have any examples, but if you’d like, I can check online?” “Whatever, as long as I can get this done by tomorrow”, she mandated.
I presented the woman with several borders that I believe beautifully accented the bookmarker. “Oh my, she was young”, I carefully say upon noticing the death stamp below the picture of a young girl, which strikingly resembled the discombobulated lady beside me. “She was”, the lady replied in a shaky voice. For the life of me I feared my comment stirred up old wounds, until I realized March 30, 2014, was only days ago.
I extend my condolences to the older lady as she removed herself from the chair, sniffing through her nose and wiping tears away from her eyes. The younger girl followed and as they exited the store, the younger man that handed me the flash drive minutes ago, apologized for everything and said that it’s probably best if they come back later. I lamented on the 22-year olds passing and courageously asked if the man would expound upon the matter in which she died.
“We don’t know”, he painstakingly said. “Sunday, she walked inside the door, told my mom she wasn’t feeling good and fell to the floor. She died instantly”.
After sighing deeply, we shook hands and I told him he has nothing to be sorry about and to hang in there. He thanked me for everything and left the store.

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