Today I went back to the Red Cross Blood Center to donate platelets for the first time since 2009. I used to go there once or twice a month and I had gotten to know the staff pretty well, so when I had to take a break from my regular visits for reasons beyond my control, it made me sad. But today I was back.
As soon as I walked in the front door (which is in the back of the building) I felt like I was in a welcoming place - everybody I saw, even those I had never seen before smiled and said hello, and those whom I knew from my prior visits all recognized me and seemed genuinely glad to see me again. It was a little like a "homecoming" for me, and it felt good to be there.
And so after all the formal intake procedures (the Red Cross is all about "procedures") when I was all hooked up (i.e., had needles in both arms) and settled in on my reclining chair for the two-hour (for me, most donors are faster) procedure that Laura came over to talk for a while and catch me up on events since I was last there. The most significant development was that sometime in the interim since my last visit, they had "lost" Marcia; Laura made it clear that by "lost" she didn't mean through retirement, but that Marcia had gone to a better place, although I didn't really need the clarification to understand what she meant.
I replied with what I hope was an appropriate expression of sympathy but honestly, I couldn't for the life of me remember exactly who Marcia was even though I wracked my brain for some recollection that would tie the name to a face. The conversation moved on to more pleasant topics, but I was left with the question, who exactly was Marcia? And it vexed me, but I knew eventually the answer would come to me.
And so tonight as I relaxed on the couch, surrounded by my dogs, listening to Jimmy Buffet on Radio Margaritaville, and sipping a glass of bourbon. I was very glad but not at all surprised when the recollections of Marcia came flooding back, She was a woman younger than me (aren't they all?) who lived in a house near the beach with her husband and their dog, and she truly enjoyed her life and was looking forward to retirement so she could spend more time doing the things she loved. When I realized this I understood why Laura had felt such a deep sense of loss because Marcia was a special woman who loved life and was loved by those who knew her.
So with that recollection in place, I miss Marcia too. But I'm glad that I knew her and I'm more glad that I remembered her for the special person she was. I'm pretty sure that she would have been glad to see me back, too, and I know I would have enjoyed talking to her and catching up on dog news. Life goes on.