In 2012 I started a job at The Arthritis Society under odd circumstances. I didn’t quite know why I was being treated so poorly by my colleagues but I eventually learned that it was common knowledge that I was hired due to cronyism. Apparently, the narrative, treated as fact, was that I was hired by my good friend, who happened to be the Vice President of the communications department, and who had the misfortune of being universally unpopular.
Problem with their rumour was that I was not friends with the VP, had never met her prior to my employ, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how they had determined that the opposite was true. For close to six months I had quietely endured rude, and openly hostile treatment. When I clarified the record, they warmed to me, but not before yet another lesbian broke into my email and created drama with mutual friends, who I had no clue we shared. Don’t ask. It only gets more dysfunctional when you do.
The only person who was kind to me during my tenure was Pippa, who worked in fundraising. She always stopped by the office I shared with the aforementioned lesbian and explained what she was up to the night previous and what she had planned after work. Pippa took shit from no one, but she did so kindly and with manners. I always enjoyed her company, and when I started to come to terms with a lot of the child abuse I exprienced she was one of the first people to pick up the phone to call me. Make no mistake, Pippa and I were by no means the closest of friends, but during that trying time, she was there for me more than any of them. When my stories made everyone uncomfortable, when their silence shamed or embarrassed me, Pippa was there. She displayed empathy and compassion, and was patient during the remambrance of some dark memories.
After both of us left The Arthritis Society we remained friends, often speaking to each other on the phone, sharing emails and getting together from time to time for dinner. Pippa worked for the Art Gallery of Ontario in a position that she loved and thrived on, and she was generous to a fault, always inviting me to an exhibition, where she acted as my personal guide. She did several favours for my employer as well.
The last time I saw Pippa was on December 8, 2017. We went for dinner at the AGO Bistro where she updated me about her recent diabetes diagnosis, her dramatic weight loss, her loss and return of sight, and of course, about her family, including her husband and daughter whom she adored equally. Strangely enough, I had almost cancelled that night, because I had recenlty come down with a nasty cold, and I didn’t want to get her sick, but she said it was fine, and that she wanted to see me.
I had recently left my job of over three years with the goal of heading to Argentina to complete my manuscript so we talked briefly about that, paid up, toured the gift shop, hugged each other and agreed to get together over Christmas. Unfortunately she caught my cold, which turned into a flu, and so couldn’t meet me. Our last chat was on the phone, laughing about our shit luck. She made arrangements for my work to hold a professional photoshoot at the Galleria Italia and that was that, we said our goodbyes.
She passed away on February 5. The hardest part for me, besides her death, has been that there’s no where to visit her. She was cremated. There is no gravestone, no cemetery to sit and chat with her. I know I have my memories, I know they should be enough. But still, even for only one day a year, I’d love to find a place to bring her flowers.
Pippa is still here, I can feel her sometimes. There are days I visit her Instagram account to hear her voice. I write her daughter from time to time. Death is incomprehensible. One day we’re here and another we have flown to the ether.
I miss her, but I will always remember her. She was a wonderful woman.