You can learn a lot about someone by talking over a cup of coffee or a bathroom sink. Susan was near my age. I knew she had been fighting cancer for a while. She was always cheerful and matter-of-fact about it. I never saw her have a down day. She was a more rabid baseball fan than I am, and she had the baseball bat earrings to prove it. Occasionally I would stop by her desk to view the current month's page on her Padres team calendar, and I would bemoan the pain of being a baseball lover in San Diego. Ever the optimist, Susan always believed that this year, the Pads had a chance.
Susan was doing well for a long stretch, but then she had a setback and was on leave for a few weeks. She returned to work for a brief time, towing a small oxygen canister on a cart behind her, still smiling. The last time we talked at the coffee machine was months ago. Susan was wearing her oxygen nose clip. Knowing from our many conversations that she was single, I asked her if she needed anything. Did she have enough help at home?
"Oh, I'm fine!" Susan assured me. "My ex has been really wonderful, helping me out." With characteristic cheerfulness, she settled that point and changed the subject.
It wasn't long after that day that Susan was on medical leave again. We got word late today that she died this afternoon. I didn't know her very well, but what I knew of her I liked very much. She was someone I could easily have been good friends with.
Sometimes at the coffeepot or the bathroom sink, we would talk about going to lunch "someday." It never happened. And I'll always be sorry it didn't.