I never thought I would be writing about Pam Begley…

I read somewhere recently that with winter come the angels. That the devil packs his bags and follows the heat south, to more fiery climes where passions are in full swing. And I’d have to agree that there is something about the winter that is so pure and so clear, that it does make one feel that angels are about. In weather this cold there is an emptiness – a silence as though all things trivial have washed away – that can cleanse us, and ready us for the bursting of life to come.

This week has been a strange and beautiful one, full in ways that I didn’t realize until I sat down to write. I fought a stomach virus all week – a virus not bad enough to keep me from work/kids/life, just bad enough to make me feel horrible while I trudged through it – and took no photos, so what is there to put in a blog? Fortunately – or not – my mind is always chugging away up there…

One thing on the forefront of my brain this week was the premature death – very premature, mid 40s – of a coworker from breast cancer. It’s hard not to be shaken up by the death of someone so young, but what is really scary is the possibility that it could happen to someone like Pam. The words vivacious and passionate come to mind, but not the vivacious that runs 10ks or the passionate that pickets for world peace. Pam was the vivacious that could entertain a full bar 4 nights a week without ever loosing her laugh, or ever making one of her regulars think she was not there for him/her alone. And Pam was the passionate that could throw fury your way like no other. And she threw plenty at me. There were times I wanted to jump over her bar and strangle her….

But I never did. Because she scared the shit out of me. And I guess that’s it. Pam was LOVED. Loved by so many people. She could be kind and funny, and always full of life. She also had one foot dancing with the devil, and that is the reason I still can’t believe she’s gone. Pam was powerful and cunning. I really thought a spirit like that – even though it was at odds with mine on many occasions – was unstoppable. I was wrong. Sort of.

I only saw Pam a few times after she was diagnosed with cancer, and she was always very gracious. Friends told me that it had turned her life completely around and made her look at things in a greater light. In the three interactions I had with her, I sensed a gentleness to her that I previously hadn’t noticed – except when she was with my children, with whom she was always very warm – and realized why so many people loved her the way they did.

I spent a lot of time this week trying to organize babysitters and school pick-ups for my kids so that I could attend Pam’s funeral, but it all fell through in the end. I did run around and pull strings so that I could make it to the reception afterward though. I felt that it was really important for me to be there, which didn’t make sense to me at the time, but does now. I only stayed for 45 minutes, but that was long enough. Being there, listening to Pam’s music, watching her family and friends and decade long bar patrons eat and drink champagne, I finally felt a clear sense of something missing. Her laughter. Her presence. Pam’s presence was bigger than anyone’s I have encountered in my life so far, and it was gone.

I left with my little Ophelia in tow, and stepped out into a mild snowstorm. Wide, wet flakes everywhere, and I thought of the angels. How could they take someone who was just on the brink of starting a whole new life? And then I imagined Pam somewhere warm – Key West maybe – wine in hand, in the midst of some wild and animated story, the people around her all leaning in, anticipating her next words. And then she’s laughing. Pam’s spirit is unstoppable. I know somewhere she’s laughing.


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