This time of year, it’s hard to walk into the office breakroom and not encounter free food: Turkeys, hams, cookies, brownies, popcorn, doughnuts, cupcakes, dropped off by business associates or left over from holiday celebrations held by others in the office. It’s addictive and bad for you but always welcome.
But this year, also a little sad.
I walked into the breakroom a few minutes ago to see an empty container than once housed homemade brownies — none of which I got. I immediately had a pang of anger. “Did Sharla bring by her goodies and everyone get to them before I found out?” I thought for a brief second. And then I remembered: No, she did not. Sharla died last week of brain cancer.
I did not know Sharla well. She worked part-time as a driver for Dallas Voice for many years, though she didn’t spend much time in the office unless she was filling in for her wife, Maryann Ramirez, who for ages was the distribution manager for the Voice. Maryann was (and is!) a strong personality who always seemed tamed by Sharla’s sweetness. Maryann talked so affectionately to Sharla on the phone (her work station was outside for a long time), and about Sharla around the office.
Every Christmas — and truth be told, other holidays too, or for no occasion at all — Maryann would bring in baked goods Sharla had made for all of us. She wasn’t in the office to share them with us; it was a totally selfless gift. And while I always said thank you and tried never to take her generosity for granted, this year it resonates with me especially knowing that era is over. No more treats from Sharla. This is sad for me and everyone else in the office; but I can hardly imagine what it is like for Maryann.
This is a difficult time of year to suffer loss: The holidays magnify everything, and it’s having free time and exchanging gifts is something a lot of people look forward to, so to have that experience cut short is especially heartbreaking (particularly since everyone else around you seems to be so happy). I broke up with an ex with finality on Christmas Eve years ago — that was hard. But to lose a partner like Maryann lost Sharla is unfathomable to me.
It’s easy to get lost in yourself this time of year, to attach too much significance to material things. But I will spent part of my time this season thinking about what I did not get: Sharla’s brownie bars. And that will make the holiday more important to me.