Commentary by Donna Monday
First you cry. That’s what I did. That’s what we all do when we lose a dear friend . Her name was Leslie Collins. If the name sounds familiar, it should. She’s had a byline in one publication or another in the Zionsville area for decades.
After I cried, I baked bread for the family.
Then I bought an orchid. That was for Les. I don’t even know if she liked orchids. But she loved gardening, and this orchid was special. It came with two easy-growing plants in the same pot. I figured if somebody couldn’t keep an orchid alive, they’d still have a houseplant.
How’s that for practical decision making? Of course that decision was made with tears streaming down my face and a sweet, young floral assistant patting my hand.
After that, it was easy. Just wait a few days and show up for the funeral. Les would have loved the long procession from Zionsville to Crown Hill Cemetery in rush hour Friday night traffic. She was a thespian.
Most all of all she was a writer. She needed to write like a fish needs to swim. That was apparent the day I met her some 30 years ago. I was the editor of a Zionsville paper when she showed up wanting a job. She’d never written for pay.
She’d obviously been writing at home for years. She said she was writing a story about her family. Her mother was in a wheelchair, but the family had had such adventures. She carried a tome an inch thick.
“It’s a really good story,” she said. “I will work hard.”
I had no cause to doubt her. She reminded me so much of myself a few years earlier that I thought God would never forgive me if I didn’t hire her. So I hired her. It was one of my best decisions. She covered everything from traffic accidents to heart wrenching features. Soon the Zionsville police were calling her “Scoop.”
In time she would edit a Gannet newspaper and win writing awards. I, on the other hand, would sell cars for a couple of decades. For fun I wrote a column for the paper Les edited. She was now my editor. I called her “Words.” She called me “Cars.”
So it went. For years and years, “Cars” and “Words,” giggling together.
In the language of kids today we were bff’s, best friends forever.
I still have her birthday present in the truck of my car. I had no idea she wouldn’t last another week to claim it.