Flowers at the scene May 21 of a one-car crash that killed two women and a 1-year-old girl as the women walked in a stroller a day earlier along the west side of Cony Road in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

You’d better believe it: life is short.

Never has that become more clear to me than now, since learning of the tragic passing May 20 of a former colleague.

Barbara Maxim-Hendsbee Morning Sentinel file

Barbara Maxim-Hendsbee was part of our newspaper family for 40 years and I worked with her for 30, though we were in different departments.

It was common knowledge that Barb was the top advertising salesperson and it’s no wonder.

Who could say “No” to someone so friendly, vibrant, earnest and full of enthusiasm?

She was not someone I expected would ever leave this earth at a young age — and certainly not the way that she did.

I imagine her on the last day of her life, walking in Augusta with her best friend, Rose, and Barb’s beloved granddaughter, Vada-Leigh, chatting, laughing, enjoying the sunny day and planning their next big adventure. I hope they didn’t know what was to happen. I hope they did not suffer.

I think of Barb a lot these days, recalling her at her desk in the Waterville ad department, smiling, talking business with Dana, Karen, Deb, Lori and the others, always engaged, always upbeat, always moving. Barb was quick, mentally and physically. She was a worker. She won awards for her work. She was respected and admired.

I remember meeting her three decades ago when I was working at the Somerset County Bureau of the Morning Sentinel in Skowhegan and she was in town on an advertising mission. She asked a few of us out to lunch and we dined at The Pub on the Kennebec River. As a newish employee, I thought the newspaper must be a great place to work, long-term, if someone as lovely and engaging as Barb was so enthusiastic about her job and spread such joy around.

Morning Sentinel advertising personnel, seen in 2009, from left in the back row are Matt Sargent, Ron Robbins, Barbara Hendsbee, Mike Cleary, Lori Gervais, Dana Sennett, Debbie Fuller and Glenn Turner. Joan Hallee is center. In front from left is Bridget Campbell, Cindy Stevens and Rick DeBruin. Morning Sentinel file

As the years went on, we became like a large family at the newspaper’s Waterville office, working day-to-day, passing each other in the hall, chatting at the water cooler and attending company meetings, lunches and holiday parties. Barb was just always there. I can see her in summertime, leaving the parking lot at the end of the day in her convertible sports car, donning big dark glasses, her brunette hair flowing in the wind.

Four years ago she retired, a moment that seemed to creep up on everyone. Barb wouldn’t be here anymore? It didn’t seem possible. She was one of us, and she would leave a large hole.

But we also knew she had places to go and people to see, and we’d certainly not begrudge her that. She had earned it.

She had two daughters, parents and other family she adored, a loving partner, many friends, and much she wanted to accomplish in her retirement.

Someone once told me, after I lost a close friend to tragedy, that it is not the length of time one lives that matters, but the quality of the life lived — a comment I’m sure was meant to assuage the pain of loss.

Such was the case in Barb’s life.

She packed more into her 69 years than many do in 100. She refused to let an opportune moment pass without diving into something fun, adventurous, or charitable.

We at the Sentinel are better for having known her, enriched by her example of positivity and grit in a sometimes stressful, fast-paced environment. Blessed, you might say.

As we grieve her loss, we send love and support to her family and friends.

Though we can’t lessen their pain, we can only pray that with time, their pain of loss will ease and they will be able to smile at happy memories. Barb would want that.

To our friend and former colleague, thank you for showing us how to live, joyfully. Godspeed.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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