Cheri, office manager for my apartment complex, passed away this past weekend.
The news reached us a few minutes ago. And only a few minutes before that I had gone down to the office looking for a package I was expecting and wondered why the office was closed. Little did I know the news that awaited me. I liked Cheri. She was good at her job and she was a great person. I saw her on Friday when I stopped by at the office concerning collections for a charity. We exchanged niceties and chit chatted about issues related to the new parking rules. I took leave saying “Enjoy your weekend”.
A few months ago I was eager to move out of my apartment to another building within the same complex; a place with more sun and air. It was an unsure period since I was also evaluating moving in with my international friends. Cheri completely understood the difficult choice I had to make and she went out of her way to provide time and options. I know she stepped away from guidelines by allowing me to keep my apartment beyond the lease renewal deadline. She patiently continued to show me apartments as they became available and on the fourth visit she showed me the apartment where I now live.
For more than a year now, Cheri has been there when we needed her. It will take me some time to visualise that office without Cheri, her welcoming smile, and her hearty greeting “Good morning, Gurdas!”. I am informed she has family in Michigan and Florida and we are waiting to find out where the funeral will take place. I hope I get to say goodbye in person.
Cheri Smolen, my friend, you leave us poorer.
— update and request —
Many of us are saddened to hear that Cheri fought with lonliness. I, for one, never gauged that from my brief but plenty interactions with her during her time at Western Manor apartments. She seemed aloof at times, but then I can say that for everyone, including myself. And this increases my respect for Cheri. If she was fighting a battle within herself, and yet managed to diligently attend to her professional duties, it is nothing but a mark of her character. So, God bless her.
I am also going to humbly request that comments focus on memories of Cheri, what she meant to you, her goodness, and your goodbye message. When I wrote this piece I had not imagined so many of Cheri’s friends would find their way here. For that, I am thankful to each of you. And I would like this page to become our very modest gift to our dear friend.
— update 2 —
There are some comments where people have requested for information about Cheri’s family; specially the request by Shirley Franklin Fleury. If you have information to share, please post it as a comment or send it to me. My email address appears in the ‘About’ page (see top blue bar).
— update 3 —
Please also leave your condolences for Cheri here. Laura, thank you for starting this.
— update 4 —
Today, June 3, 2010, some of Cheri’s friends from the spiritual community she attended got together and celebrated her life with a memorial service. I am so glad I went. This was my first such attendance in the US, and I was moved by what I saw and heard. A service berry tree was planted in her memory beside the visitor center at the Umstead Park and some of us shared our memories of Cheri. What I liked most was that hope and joy was abound in that group, and when we did have a tear or two, it had nothing to do with sadness, but a lot to do with love. I happen to remark that life is rather extraordinary because the passing away of a friend becomes the reason to meet so many new wonderful people. There was a lot of wisdom collectively held between the group that had come together to celebrate Cheri’s life. I think she would be proud of what she has left behind. I felt like saying, Hello Cheri.