The woman in the coffin looked nothing like my friend. Patty, young and full of life, was always smiling with a twinkle in her eyes. The face of my friend was not smiling, nor were her beautiful blue eyes sparkling so I just stared in disbelief. She had undergone a gastric bypass that went terribly wrong. She developed an infection, pneumonia, and then left us before we even knew she was sick. Her last Facebook post was asking for prayers just before they put her in a medically induced coma, then nothing to follow.
I got the call about her death from a mutual friend. She was as shocked as I was. Patty was only 46, married, with three children and one grandchild. She was so vibrant. One thing I loved about her was that you always knew what she was thinking. A strong Taurus woman, if she liked you, you knew. If she loved you, even better. If she was mad, you knew that, too. That level of openness and authenticity is so uncommon and I always admired that about her.
I worked with Patty as a police officer in Baltimore City since she joined the force in 1993. At my last assignment, she worked for me in the Traffic Section for 7 years. She always had my back, letting me know the things I needed to know, and worked harder than anyone else. She was a female police detective in a male dominated profession, yet had the complete respect of all her peers and supervisors. During my last conversation with her prior to her death, her last words were, “I’ve got a call Les, I have to go.”
Maybe she did get a call. Maybe God needed her more than we do.
I stared at her vacant body and wondered why she chose to have the procedure. What we all loved about her was her passionate personality. Her personality was larger than life; when she entered the room, you knew it. I can’t help but tear up as I write this. I just wonder why she didn’t know what really made her beautiful, something that wasn’t tangible, but you felt it when in her presence. Her personality was one of a kind. No one thought she needed to lose weight but Patty. She didn’t see what we saw, I guess. She was beautiful.
I realize that women are under enormous pressure to look perfect and be perfect. Unlike older generations of women, many women today are significant wage earners and still do all the traditionally female household activities. The movies, advertising, and television have formed an image for us to emulate that is nearly impossible. The average woman today works a 9 to 5, makes dinner for her family, does laundry, makes lunches for school, dishes and more in one day. Where is there time in that scenario for self-care? When we are caring for everyone else, when is there time for us?
In Patty’s life, she did all that plus worked shift work and overtime. Those two additional factors, shift work and overtime, are more significant than you can imagine in terms of the toll it takes over time on your body and your emotional state. So many women put their self-care last. I know it’s an overused metaphor, but flight attendants tell us to put our masks on first, then put our child’s oxygen mask on. Why is that order important? If you’re passed out, you’re no good for those in your care.
Do women have to crash and burn before it’s acceptable to take care of themselves? It should not be a badge of honor to be completely wiped out and tired due to family obligations. I wanted to write this article to honor Patty’s memory. I also want women to know that you should rank high on your priority list. You are important to so many people so please don’t neglect your physical and emotional health. There is no quick fix for self-care. Please know there is only one “you” and you can’t be replaced. The fact that you have a few extra pounds or perhaps don’t have time to color your hair shouldn’t matter to those who truly love you. Give yourself the love and unconditional acceptance that you so freely give others. You are an amazing being.
When Christmas came this year, I couldn’t help but think that Patty’s family would have much rather had their mom here with a few extra pounds than an empty chair. The beautiful energy that Patty filled the office with was not present.
Instead of the typical New Year Resolutions-lose weight, drink more water, exercise, put all of that into the category of self-care. There is no place in self-care for guilt or negativity. If you skip a day, try again. Simply try to take better care of yourself and be more loving toward yourself. Perhaps order a side salad instead of fries. Make little changes that can add up to better overall health. There are so many people that see your beauty and depend on you.
Patty was a strong, bad ass chick. I’ve known some tough women and she was right up there at the top of the list. Maybe that’s why her death rocked me so hard; it was sudden, and she was so strong. If life can end abruptly for Patty, then it can come to a quick stop for any of us. Some things are simply in God’s hands but there is a lot about our health that we can control. For your kids, for your friends, for your spouse, please make sure you’re doing all you can to take care of yourself. For many people, YOU are the rock star in their life. It’s not about the way you look, it’s all about your music.
~In memory of Patty Lamont Bauer