I met Terese on Thursday, November 8, 2012, at a Music On Maxwell event at sundance gallery in Greenwood, SC. I was there to sell calendars for our local humane society, where I am the director.
I had gotten to the studio early to set up my table and was feeling kind of anxious. I’m okay going to certain events by myself, but my preference is to have a companion or cohort. Having someone I know — no matter how little or how well — helps me feel secure. I scanned the faces of the people as they filed in to the venue and was surprised that I recognized so few. Sure, I saw a few notable local citizens, but I didn’t know them well enough to cling to them for company.
I silently sat at my table and smiled as people passed by. Shortly before the first band was to start playing, a tall, older woman wearing a fashionable hippie-ish outfit walked to the tables and saddled up behind the one next to mine. Once she was settled she introduced herself and asked what I was there to promote. I told her I was peddling calendars to benefit the humane society. She informed me that she came to all of the Music On Maxwell events to sell merchandise on behalf of the bands that are performing. She enjoyed the music and being around fellow music lovers.
As with most people I meet I told her that she looked familiar, and we tried to connect the dots rattling off names of different family members, friends, and co-workers’ in a futile exercise of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” At game’s end there was only a couple of people that we both knew. Still, there was a familiarity about her. Her smile was disarming and the cadence of her Southern accent melodic. (Did I mention that I had already drank two beers?) I felt instantly comfortable around Terese, this new acquaintance, and no longer like I was there by myself.
Months went by, it was early summer. I noticed that my neighbor was rarely leaving the house and, because we had shared a rocky relationship for four-plus years due to my barking dogs, I was hesitant to visit his house, even if to check on his well-being. I had noticed, however, a blue car parked in the driveway from time to time, so I felt relief that someone was making sure he was okay.
I was mowing the grass one afternoon and noticed the blue car pull up next door. I spied a look to find out who the mysterious visitor with the blue car would be. It was Terese! I hadn’t seen her since that night in November and, although we didn’t form any kind of close friendship, I thought, “Oh wow! It’s that cool lady!”
I stopped the lawn mower and ran to catch up with her as she walked toward my neighbor’s front door. I sped across the yard and thought, “Good lord, she’s fast!” I finally caught up just as she was going inside the house. I heard her announce her arrival to my neighbor in a loud voice, “ROCK AND ROLL!” (She’s so cool!)
She walked into the house and I followed behind stopping in the doorway, afraid of startling them both, and sheepishly said, “Hello? Hellooo?” She turned around with a surprised look. I explained that I was a neighbor and wanted to make sure he was okay. We talked for a while and then I reminded her that we had met the previous year at one of the music events and, well … she didn’t remember me.
I thanked her for her time and jettisoned back to my yard.
The next and last time I saw Terese was a month later. She came to visit my neighbor and brought along “Rory,” her Scottish Terrier, I actually had never seen a Scotty in person and was surprised by how big he was. We talked a while about him and other Scotties she had once had. She seemed to have a hard time keeping her balance while Rory was tugging on his leash wanting to visit with my dogs. She told me she had just had a medical procedure and it was difficult for her to get around. I thought how wonderful she still managed to check in on my neighbor, her friend. (She just gets cooler every time we meet.)
Last week I learned that Terese had died. — and in true rock n’ roll fashion doing what she loved. She was at sundance gallery getting ready for another Music On Maxwell event and collapsed. There wasn’t anything that could be done and she passed away quietly at the hospital.
Those who knew her better than I did can share stories of much greater interest about her life. But I wanted to share about her spirit. How she — a person whose energy was fun, contagious, and so alive — had a long-lasting and unforgettable effect on me. Just being true to who she was, and exuding complete authenticity, spoke to me like as loud as any church sermon.
I cried when I learned of her death. I found out her friends had decided that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations should be made to the humane society where I work. I cried even more.
I didn’t know Terese well, but I knew her well enough that I will never forget her. She was just so damn cool.