Death of a friend
Through a woman's eyes
By Cheryl Springer
April 29, 2007
Why? This is the question that always arises when a young person dies. We know we are born to die, but most of us expect to grow old before being faced with that eventuality. However, the world being what it is, attaining old age is now a privilege. It's not to be scoffed at. It should not be taken for granted. Life expectancy is nothing but a statistical term, though it is said to be up generally in Guyana. Perhaps a better description of the time people are likely to live would be death expectancy. And no, I am not being morbid.
Before I ever met Angela Osborne, the young woman who was to be a friend to me for ten years, I heard her laughter. For some reason, I was not at work on the first day of her employment at Stabroek News. The next day, I was passing the library when a loud peal of laughter startled me, and I investigated. There she was, a diminutive 'dougla' girl, in stitches over something she was reading in a back issue of the newspaper.
In time, Angela grew to know the ins and outs of the library and could tell you, without even checking, whether the particular document or photograph you wanted was available. She could be exasperating at times, because I would want her to look for whatever it was I wanted rather than just say it was not there. But more often than not, she was right. And she never ever forgot to say "I told you so".
Angela was asthmatic and even though she tried, working in the library was a physical challenge. But she plodded on until the opportunity to get out presented itself and she leapt at it. Within a short time, her natural skill with the computer emerged and she was one of the first employees sent for training when Stabroek News decided to go online. She helped design the first webpage and would post the stories from the day before first thing each morning. She helped train others and eventually was no longer responsible for this task. However, she was such a computer whiz that in those early days, often at night and on Sundays, she would be sent for to help sort out some kink or the other and she did without complaint.
Angela was among very few people at the newspaper who really understood computers. She was au fait with software and hardware and became adept at designing newspaper layout pages. She had a good grasp of the computer jargon and knew when technicians were trying to pull a fast one and would say so.
As reporter for the Sunday newspaper, Angela would write the occasional feature. Some of the areas she would have covered included the prisons and children's homes around the country. But she particularly enjoyed doing the Christmas features, which involved asking well-known people about their plans for the holidays. And she would seek out the people she considered the wittiest, in order to keep the feature light.
Angela was not all sweetness and light. If she felt someone was being overbearing or unreasonable she had absolutely no qualms about telling them so. But she also had a sensitive side and I remember her sorrow at the death of Patrick Denny, Stabroek News's former managing editor who, when he was alive, took pleasure in calling her 'Lakshmi' and in teasing her.
Prior to Angela, Denny was the last serving employee of this company to die. But he was predeceased by three women, who all died in their prime. Reporter Debra Bacchus; Proofreader Romona Inasi and Typist Lavern Cummings all died of cervical cancer, several years apart. These three women had all gone overseas for treatment, which was not available here. And they all died prior to Angela being diagnosed with defective kidneys in 2005 when she too was forced to go overseas for treatment. I will admit that strides have since been made in the local healthcare sector, but they came too late for all four women.
I last worked closely with Angela in November/December on the Christmas Day and New Year's Day's newspapers and on a committee to plan a Christmas karaoke night for the staff, along with Noela Martindale, who was Angela's close friend and Godmother to her daughter Aaliyah. I remember that the chocolate-loving Angela baked a chocolate cake, which she brought to the event but she did not have any herself; a sign perhaps that she was not herself. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20 vision. I remember how much she laughed at us and with us over some of our more pitiful attempts at singing. I remember her stirring rendition of Whitney Houston's "On My Own". That song must have meant a great deal to Angela, because I can see her now, eyes closed, singing with such emotion that the hairs on my arms prickled. Not once did she open her eyes to read the words on the screen and she never fumbled. Her performance was flawless.
I'm wiser now,
I'm not the foolish girl you used to know
So long ago.
I'm stronger now,
I've learned from my mistakes which way to go
And I should know.
I put myself aside to do it your way,
But now I need to do it alone
And I am not afraid to try it on my own.
I don't care if I'm right or wrong.
I'll live my life the way I feel.
No matter what I'll keep it real, you know.
Time for me to do it on my own.