I walked into the Moose Lodge on RCA Boulevard feeling out of sorts. The scheduled Celebration of Life for Nanci was due to end in 20 minutes. Otherwise, it had been a usual Sunday for me, with a busy morning—a Garden Tour in Palm Beach with Patti and then lunch with Caroline and Sam. After dropping off Patti at her place I sped north on I-95. I pulled into the parking lot mostly filled with pick-up trucks and a few motorcycles. Outside were gathered a few smokers with beer bottles hanging loosely at their sides. The glances my way made me feel a bit uneasy. I walked through the entrance into a reception area with pictures of past Moose members. I then realized I didn’t really know why I was there. Nanci was one of the regular counter gals at Greens, my local pharmacy and lunch place in Palm Beach. Over the past 20 years I only knew her first name and that was from the nametag she wore. Not one to talk much she was always short on words and did her job—take her order and return to gossip with the other counter ladies. I was never successful in engaging her in a conversation. In fact, I was cautious not to call out my order to her until she was ready and standing at my table with her pen out and a note pad in hand. In hindsight I thought that perhaps by coming to her Celebration I might learn a bit more about her. She always seemed a bit out of place at the counter. She was tall and evidently had once been a “looker.” Who was Nanci and did I miss something or offend her in some way over the years? I never observed her in real conversation with any customer though, so maybe it wasn’t me. She was there to do her job and she did it well. Nanci would not know I was there to pay my respects, but I wanted the other counter ladies to know I do care. That was the point, I guess. I roamed the room, furnished with round tables decorated with printed logos of the Washington Redskins -now called the Commanders. Large photos affixed to the walls showed Nanci in various stages of her life: motherhood, partying in Key West, in a Redskins football jersey, and having fun with her many friends. The music played, country and western. The open bar had a line. There were homemade cookies and brownies. This was not an “eating” party. The beer and desserts must have been what Nanci would want. Someone had made a video of her life over the years and a few of us stood there watching it. The counter women from Greens sat around a table and I went over to say hello. I believe I was the only customer who showed during the Celebration. I felt a bit awkward speaking to them. I sensed they were looking at me and wondering “what is he doing here?” I walked around the room once more and saw a table with condolence cards made out to Nanci’s family. I thought perhaps I should have brought one. I looked for a guestbook to sign, but then I don’t think anyone really cared that I was there. I left as I came in, wondering why I had gone in the first place. I guess sometimes we do things for a reason that only make sense some time after the event. This was one of them. I am glad I went. I cared for Nanci.
2 thoughts on “Moose Lodge at Palm Beach Gardens”
It is never wrong to do the right thing. I was in a very similar situation years ago when the bread servers son at one of our clubs was gunned down. I went to the funeral home to pay my respects and when I saw the young man’s father who served our family for years, I hugged him and told him that I wept for him and his wife. The embrace of two fathers, one desperately needing support and another there to support, defines humanity. On the way out I noticed that I was the only club member not in the board to make the trip off The Island and drive way out west for this sad event. I then noticed the entire club staff looking at me. They each approached and told me how much my visit meant to the family and to them. From that day on, I was treated subtly different when I visited our club. Best table, cocktails filled to the very top, warmer welcomes, prime-rib end-cut, car parked right up front was now the norm. In life, one gets what one gives. It’s just that simple.
You went to pay your respects to someone who had served you for over 20 years and there was the hope that you would find out something interesting about her life beyond waitressing at Greens. You would have regretted not attending even though you found yourself out of place and undoubtedly disappointed that you learned nothing more about Nanci. There may have been nothing more to know about her. In the end you were probably the only Greens customer who was kind and caring enough to go out of his way to remember her.