Some people are really good at running through sadness, heart ache, mourning, etc.
But not me. Bad news just tends to knock me on my butt pretty hard and makes me want to curl up in a little ball in my bed. Running this week just isn’t happening.
On Friday, my college mentor died. She was only 50.
Penny was diagnosed with breast cancer my sophomore year, and I remember being devastated to find out that news, but she didn’t really let it slow her down. She kept teaching and advising students, and health wise for the last several years, she seemed to be doing so well.
I guess things took a turn for the worse a couple weeks ago.
I’ve been trying to come up with words to describe how much she meant to me and how much I looked up to her and valued her advice, but everything I come up with just sounds hollow and empty. Nothing does her justice. (Though two very nice obituaries have been written, one by another professor at the college and one by the school paper.)
Penny was one of the few professors I still kept in touch with after graduation, and she invited me back to speak to her classes every year. In between classes, we’d grab lunch or just sit in her office and catch up. I’d tell her about work and running, and she’d talk about her family, the newest changes coming to the journalism school, etc.
In my head I knew she was technically “sick” — she’d once compared herself to Elizabeth Edwards in that sense — but looking at her and interacting with her, you never would have known it. I think that’s why I was so stunned when I heard the news over the weekend.
Since then, it’s been a strange few days. The sadness creeps up on me pretty unexpectedly at times and I’ll find myself crying in the weirdest places, like in the bleachers at the start of a football game or in a stairwell in my office building.
The funeral is Friday. I’m sure it will be standing room only. The journalism school is small. Everyone knows everyone, and for the most part, they all feel like family. It’s going to be a hard and crappy end to what has already been a pretty hard and crappy week.