Thursday, December 13, 2012

Steffanie's Shoes

Last Friday night, my friends and I went to a party for work, which was lavishly decorated with edible decor.  My friends Lisa and Steffanie stood before one of the tables, admiring the chocolate artwork that would be thrown in the trash at the night's end. After hearing Lisa admire the shoes, Steffanie waited until her friend was no longer looking and charmed a staff boy, about 18 years old, to let her stuff this gigantic high-heeled dessert into her purse, which she presented to Lisa later as a gift.  "Let's eat it!" Steffanie said later at a small after-party gathering. "We'll cut it up and have a piece. It would feed all of us."  Lisa, ever nostalgic, said, "No, we should preserve it forever. Put it in the freezer."  "Why wait?" Steffanie said, with a shrug of her shoulders.

This small story hopefully tells you a lot about Steffanie Ross.  At 25, she worked with the mentally ill while saving money to go to graduate school to learn more about people with disabilities so that she could become an advocate.  She did not wait for someone to fill the shoes she knew needed to be filled.  She saw a need, and she addressed it.

On Monday, while Steffanie was delivering papers to one of her mentally ill patients, that patient stabbed her and left her in the street.  Shortly thereafter, she died.

The problem with memorializing someone is that the writer almost can't help but gloss over the details that made that person "real."  The memories you have of the deceased turn into Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul fodder.  The result is a kind of untrue, saint-like story of what made a person human.  Besides the grief, that's the reason I hate funerals.  So I'll tell you a few other things about Steffanie too, and when I'm dead, I hope you do the same thing for me.  She had a mutt-collecting addiction.  She cried whenever she saw horses, and if we ever passed a horseback riding establishment, I'd have to listen to a 15 minute tirade about animal abuse, no matter how many times I'd heard the same speech before. One of her favorite pizzas was this pistachio pie I always found gross.  She liked Fifty Shades of Grey for reasons none of us could understand, and she had a soft spot for curmudgeons like my friend David, her partner, whom she met on an internet dating site.  She was constantly searching for a different story about how they met to tell people, but she could never come up with a convincing one.

I'm not sure why I've told you any of this, except that I want you to know there's a hole in the world now.  That there are shoes to be filled that can't be.