I met her about three years ago when I was sinking under the weight of two mortgages, the second which I acquired after I shattered my arm, had no health insurance, had to pay medical bills and stay afloat.
I asked this short energetic Filippina woman what she'd recommend for an eye creme that wouldn't break the bank.
"No worries. I'll take care of you." Paveena grabbed some creme, patted it around my eyes, pulled out a hand mirror and held it in front of my face. "See? This one fills in lines AND gets rid of dark circles. If you don't like, bring it back. I will exchange it for you. I'll even give you a coupon. In fact, I'll give you two. Wait..." She dug around under the counter. "I can give you three. That means it's half price today. And I'll give you samples: the refreshing toner, the facial peeler, three kinds of moisturizer." She thrust about 50 vials and packets at me. "You will be so happy."
I'd stop in every couple of months, she'd give me a hundred samples, too many coupons and we'd talk. About life and love and work and family. Paveena went home to visit her mom who had ovarian cancer. Then she went home for her mom's funeral. She was stressed, had back pain and asked me how much I'd charge her for chiropractic treatment. I told her she could pay me in samples. But she was too busy to make it over.
I brought my stepmom to see Paveena, who was so thrilled she gave her a free facial on the spot. "I take care of your step-mommy," she said. "Mommies are important."
I was in the midst of selling my house but needed to see Paveena at CVS. This time, she wore a scarf wrapped around her head. She didn't have any hair. Her eyebrows were penciled in. "I have the cancer," she said. "The same kind as my mommy and my grand mother." I asked how I could help. I offered to give her free chiropractic. I went back, again and again, but her friend said she kept calling in sick.
I stopped by CVS today on my way to work. I didn't see Paveena or any other beauty clerk. I walked behind the counter and saw something else: yards and yards of prayers
and condolences, tributes and shout-outs for Paveena, who passed away on Easter, 2013 from ovarian cancer.
She was in her forties.
So this one's for Paveena - a woman with a big heart, the sweetest soul who made the world a much kinder, more beautiful and gentle place for so many people.
You were an angel on earth, Paveena. I hope you're happy with the angels in heaven. May your beautiful soul Rest in Peace. I will always love you.