Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"And don't forget to brush your teeth!"

Redrosebud You might think that mystery authors are as unemotional about death as their characters might seem to be.  In a cozy mystery the women sleuths (and some men) need to find a body (and sometimes more) in every book.  They have to be brave and touch the corpse (well, to find out if they're indeed dead or alive--and it's usually a stranger or someone they didn't like to begin with).  And then they push and push until justice is served.

Yup.  That's how a character has to be.

In real life, I am no such character.  I take real death pretty hard, probably because I have had so few close friends and family die on me.  Until lately.
I lost my Dad last year and it was devastating to me.  We were very close.
Over the summer, two friends died.  Granted, I hadn't seen then in nearly 20 years, but they were my peers and the first of our group to die.  (One was older than me by four years, but the other was younger by five.  That's scary.)

Since my Dad died, I've taken to reading the obits.  There's so much of the story the casual reader doesn't know, although lately the paid-for obits have been getting pretty lengthy.  I tend to read the ones with pictures more than the ones without, just because they're a little more personal.

So imagine my shock when I opened to the obits last night and there was my friend Judy staring me in the face.  "OMG--Not Judy!" I cried to my husband.  (She was the same age as him, which hit me doubly hard.)

Judy and I met when we were both vendors at a local antiques arcade.  I was a cashier and Judy was often my wrapper.  A first glance at Judy was rather startling, because the entire side of her face was slack.

 All these years later, I can't remember if she had a stroke or if she had an accident.  You see, it didn't matter.  Judy was one of the funniest ladies I ever met.  The evenings were worked were Colgate_Whitening_Toothpaste a delight.  That woman knew how to laugh! She was a retired dental hygienist and was famous for giving out toothpaste for Halloween.  She bought the little sample sized stuff by the case and she always had leftovers after October 31st so she'd press a tube in your hand and say, "Don't forget to brush your teeth!"

After she left the business, we kept in touch.  She was a voracious reader and would sell me her old paperbacks.  (I had a section of my booth dedicated to used books.  And you wondered why I knew so much about the business that I could write about it in the Booktown Mysteries.)  One time I even came to her house. She decided to downsize and still had a lot of stuff left from her vendor days.  We came to a deal and I bought a car load for my booth.  (I still have a couple of things I couldn't part with.)

Judy was one of my staunchest local supporters.  She didn't make it to many of my signings because she was on the go, taking a cruise and doing other things, but she when she couldn't make it, I'd get an email and she often had me leave a signed book at the store.

I last saw her in August at my signing for Chapter & Hearse and she was the same ball of fire she always was.  At least, that's how it seemed to me.  So to see her half-smiling picture in the paper threw me.

Good-bye, Judy.  I'll miss your laugh.  Thank you for being my friend.