One of those friends was Ms. Alondra Shenay Coleman. Shenay, with her creativity, neatness, and her recipes, saved my butt at the last minute quite often. I knew her all my life, but came to know her better in the 90s when she dated my brother. We loved "Nay"; she was so funny and talkative and ready to go-go-go. I remember going to Shreveport in her little red car, three of us crammed in the back, and shaking our heads at Shenay in the front because she couldn't make up her mind on so many things.
My brother's children loved her, too. In the years since they broke up, she has always checked on them, remembered birthdays, scolded them when needed. She came into their lives when they were relatively young. My nephew, a toddler, couldn't say her name properly. He called her "Denay." My sister and I have done the same since then.
In the last year alone, Shenay had helped me several times--for a week, we stayed up virtually all night, every night getting ready for Dee's wedding. She'd tell me, "I'm tired. I'm getting old, I can't do this with you." And she was still right there. Half the times I called her for a recipe, she'd say, "Girl, just bring the stuff, I'll do it for you."
But the one thing she asked of us, was not to take any day for granted. She'd had heart problems, including two heart attacks, and she threatened to kick my butt if I didn't get my chest pains "seen about." My chest hurt so bad the week before Dee's weeding, but I thought, "Lord, I'ma have to fall out at the reception, because I can't stop." Shenay asked me everyday had I been to the doctor and fussed when I ruefully shook my head no. Turned out my problem was horrible anxiety and GERD, but I've never forgot her cautioning or her concern.
Earlier this month, I had to get ready for Dee's anniversary party. But Dee and I had miscommunicated--I thought it was the 20th; she set it for the 13th. As I wouldn't be arriving at home until late the night of the 12th, I panicked. I e-mailed Shenay the first week in March with a plaintive, "Help!"
It took her a week to respond, which I thought was unusual, but I pushed that to the back of my mind when I finally got her response which was along the lines of "What you need?" Just that quickly and simply, she was ready to help. I told her about the rush and she said, "I've been sick, but I'll help all I can."
I felt horrible--she'd been sick and I hadn't even thought to ask after her. Conversation with friends revealed she'd actually been in hospital. Ashamed, I vowed not to bother her with yet another hectic event.
She came to the party, though, and I apologized for being inconsiderate. She smiled at me and waved that off.
On Friday, March 19, she posted a Facebook status that read, in part:
Good Morning facebook, I'm on my way to New Orleans, please pray for my safe journey.She was going to see her dad's family.
But her journey took an unexpected turn. As I was making it home Sunday night, my sister called.
"Girl," she said, then paused for a minute. "Girl, Shenay died."
I really couldn't make sense of that for a minute. I repeated it to Coti, needing to hear the words out loud, to believe them, I guess.
When I signed into Facebook that night, I saw this amazing outpouring of disbelief and love. She was really gone.
I didn't want to cry.
And yet, the tears slipped out slowly, all night. They came again, the next morning when I read that my pre-school aged cousin had consoled her mama, another of Shenay's friends with the words, "Don't be a little sad Mommy, Heaven is a good place!"
Shenay loved so much and so hard. Kids absolutely adored her and she had a gift with them. When I told my son, he said, "Shenay that helped us with the wedding? She always talked to me!" She was typically smiling or laughing, sharing a good story, or telling a dry joke in her high-pitched-but-deadpan voice.
Today, I read the quote she'd put on her Facebook page some time ago:
I am blessed and always happy, life is too short.
Way too short, it feels like, at times like this.
We love you, Denay, and we miss you. We always will.