Upon the death of his brother, Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley wrote, “I cannot say, and I will not say that he is dead—he is just away.” These words keep drumming in my head since the passing of my friend Laura last week. She’s just away. She went away to Heaven—beating me to Jesus. I know she’s healed now of the cancer that put her in so much pain. I know she’s smiling and laughing with angels about some joke she just cracked. Laura is gracing Heaven.
It’s being left on earth that’s the hard part.
So, here I am, sitting on the floor of my back room, with my giant, 130-pound dog lying next to me, going through old journals for references to Laura (and Facebook messages and texts) I want to remember her. I want to visualize the laughs we shared and the adventures we engaged. My Kleenex box is handy as I sift through the volumes. Even though, I feel like Laura and I still had so much to do (like going kayaking and snow tubing), I feel grateful for every moment we did share.
Laura always called me “kiddo”, as if I was the younger one of the friendship. “How ya doin’, kiddo?” she’d type on Facebook. “Hey kiddo—wanna play tennis?” Our games of tennis weren’t quite games as much as ‘let’s see if we can at least hit the ball’, but those times on the Golden and Lakewood courts were grand. I’ve never laughed so hard as when the ball sail would right over Laura’s head….and she would just watch it go.
If it wasn’t tennis, it was food….the Cherry Cricket, Steak N Shake, Panera Bread, Lollicup, Arby’s, Golden grounds coffee….all I had to do was pick up my phone and text, “Wanna do dinner?” And her response: “Yep, I’m in. Let’s invite Amber.”
Our friend Amber was the reason Laura and I started hanging out anyway. She’d say to me, “You should hang out with Laura—you’d be great friends.” We finally did…and Amber was right. (of course, she was, she is rarely wrong, but that’s another story) After my second encounter with Laura, my journal entry notes: “I like her; she is so nice. Kinda like me, especially in sports.” Friendship solidified.
We hiked up to St. Mary’s glacier with a few other friends. She and I wanted to reach the top—and we did. The moment was captured later by Laura in a painting.
We went skiing together on Copper Mountain. All we did was the little Kokomo hill, but Laura kept telling me to “Lead on, buddy,” like we were conquerors.
We went to a “Tenth Avenue North” concert at Faith Bible Chapel. Best part: sitting outside waiting for the concert to begin, eating food, talking about school work.
We carved pumpkins at the party at my house last year. Laura decided to carve a foam pumpkin. There was foam fuzz everywhere but she was successful. I admired her ingenuity.
When I announced my engagement, she looked at my Facebook photos, found a scene from Germany, and painted it. This gorgeous piece was my wedding gift. It is my absolute favorite—and I told Laura that. For Christmas last year, she painted a piece for my parent’s as a gift—after I commissioned her. It turned out beautifully…and I was blown away again by her talent with the paintbrush.
Some journal entries are simple. Met for dinner. Played tennis. Played Scrabble. Shared a birthday cake. Listened to her recount her trips to Belarus. Talked about school and work. Each entry puts another piece of the friendship together in my mind. I don’t have many photos, since I’m not a picture taker, but I have pages of journal entries to remind me of my friend.
Plus, there is this blog posting. This one is for you Laura. Here’s to your laugh—your infectious cheer—your generosity—your enduring spirit. You inspired me. You lifted my gaze to Heaven. You made me think. You challenged me. You encouraged me.
Fly to Jesus and live, my friend. I miss you. I love you. I wanted more time together. But…
Lead on, buddy. I’ll see you soon.