I was just about to turn in for the night when the text message signal on my little Nokia phone chimed. The message traveled from Austin to Kabul with the sad news that my friend Stacy had passed away, having succumbed to injuries she sustained in a automobile accident. Stacy was on her way home from Portland, having decided to return to the East Coast. A good friend gone at such a young age is not the easiest subject about which to craft an appropriate memorial. Lacking the talent of Bach, Schubert, Mozart, or Shelley, I can only risk sounding trite or cliche as I try to capture in words the great, larger-than-life person that was Stacy.
I knew Stacy through my best friend Brian who was raving about this amazing girl he had met as a student at CCP. Brian and I went to a party one night and there was this perpetually smiling, adorable, fiery redhead chatting and laughing garrulously with everyone in the room. She paused for introduction and with a sweet-voiced and boisterous, “HI JIM! I’M STACY!” I had made an instant friend. I never missed a chance to tag along with her on little urban adventures around Philly, and I was always happy when plans were made and someone said, “Stacy will be there!”
Stacy was a firecracker! One minute she had a hug and kiss for everyone, but oh boy you didn’t mess with girlfriend. She could whoop some ass if she had to! She was a strong woman who could and often had to take care of herself, yet at the same time, she could be fragile and vulnerable, and needed you to just be there for her, hold her tight and make her realize that “things will be okay.” And wow could she mix a pitcher of Melon Balls. I’ll never forget her trial run bartending in Manyunk - she packed the house. And as an example of her generosity, she pretty much hooked up her friends all night with high octane potables. I’m pretty sure she was fired that same night.
Stacy’s love and passion extended to all the creatures of the earth. She was devoted to the love and care of animals and was determined to turn that love into her life’s work. I remember how hard she studied and worked in her vet tech program at Harcum. She was a determined student with a goal and dammit she was getting it. As long as she could get past that dreaded math class. So how about a tutoring session with your friend the math teacher? And what better place to indulge in academic pursuits than Tangiers Bar? What could go wrong? Well, quadratic equations and pints of Yuengling might not be the best mix, but we sure had fun, didn’t we?
Of all the loved ones in Stacy’s life, I can think of nobody more dedicated to and caring for Stacy than my friend Nikole. They were like sisters. Nikole and her entire family were Stacy’s family as well. You couldn’t find a twosome more fun to be around or who loved each other so much as these two crazy chicks. I learned a lot about friendship, love, and loyalty from how these ladies laughed, shared, cried, and drove each other nuts, but in the end knew they were the best of friends for all time.
I could go on forever praising and remembering this wonderful person. We lost touch here and there, went through long periods without seeing each other or talking, but when we would reconnect it would always be a joy. I chatted with her not long before I left on this journey of mine to Kabul. I remember sensing even through text her feelings of confusion and disappointment with where life was for her at the time. I shared my upcoming adventure and tried to encourage her to not give up hope, that she could do anything or go anywhere to find happiness and fulfillment. If things weren’t going well, she could always consider missteps and setbacks as life lessons to file away and use to guide decisions for the future. And she could always come home.
Rest in peace, beautiful friend. You touched the lives of so many people. You will be missed forever, but never forgotten.