When you live in a small town, the store clerks, waitresses and mailpeople take on a celebrity-like status. It’s funny, you don’t think of them as celebs until one day, one of them dies and you find yourself in a strange state of disbelief — like when Anna Nicole Smith died.
There was this guy, Jamie, who was a cashier at the grocery store. He was the nicest guy. Every time you came in, he would chat with you, or laugh at how cute your kids were. On many days when my kids were young, he was quite possibly my only source of adult contact. Jamie was good with that. He was always in a good mood without being annoying. He had a knack for being personable yet efficient – a natural at cashiering.
Jamie was a giant man. He struggled to fit in his little cashier space. He had a full beard and glasses, which gave his size a friendly, Santa-like effect. My friend Laura got to know him a little more than the rest of us. She knew his name (which is how I learned it unfortunately, posthumously) and she was the one who called me to tell me he had died suddenly in his sleep. I was shocked. I know I was just at the store the day before he died…in his isle. I always chose his isle.
I am haunted by the thought that I was there in front of him on his last day of life. Was I in a hurry? Did I chat with him or did I rush on through, scolding my kids for begging for gum? I feel a loss every time I go in the store now. I miss him being there.
The store posted his obit near the customer service desk. It was cut out from the local paper and sitting next to the lottery tickets in a little plastic stand. It seemed too small a tribute for such a big man.
I didn’t go to his funeral, though I did think about it. Instead, I’ve decided to pay respects in my own personal way. In his honor, I’ve decided to try and be kinder – especially when I’m in his isle.
In memory of Jamie, I will not roll my eyes or make obvious gestures that I’m in a hurry. When I see someone slowly pull out a checkbook in the express line (hello — EXPRESS) after their 25 (!) items have been bagged, I will not mutter under my breath.
I will remember that even the smallest moments of human contact can have an impact…that one little gesture of kindness can change the current of a whole day.
Mother Theresa once said “Kind words can be easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless”. Our small town was blessed, indeed, with Jamie’s kind words and endless echoes. Godspeed Jamie, you will be missed.