Laura and I shared a love for summer, particularly as we aged, though after our high school years, my summers were increasingly spent in the mountains while hers continued at the shore.
Laura was Italian while I was Irish but we both loved to dance.
Additionally we were each outspoken and politically at odds.
When I posted this selfie on the morning after the election (an election Laura celebrated) she immediately messaged me, “Kel, maybe his election will give rise to women.”
Two months later, when we were meant to be together for a girlfriends’ New Year weekend, Laura was under the weather and didn’t join us.
A few days later I received the news that Laura had been admitted to ICU, and I kept vigil with her that night from my bed.
In the morning, as I dressed and readied myself for the day, I felt something I’d never felt before.
A rip tide?
Like an old woman, I steadied myself, and lowered my bottom to a chair, and clutched my heart, and breathed deeply, as tears, unbidden, sprung from my eyes, like a sprinkler, just before the water gushes through.
I gulped it whole, lungs flooded, like swallowing the sea.
So this is what it is to lose a friend.
A fews back, Laura made a pilgrimage from her home to mine, 300 miles away. She came by train, with a frail heart, and arrived in the evening, as snow began to fall on these Green Mountains that I call home.
Laura hated winter, especially after she got sick, but she made the early December journey to celebrate my 50th even if she couldn’t dance like we had when we were young. And not only that, she came a day early, alone, ahead of her husband and our mutual friends–so that she could steep in the landscape that I had long insisted was as nourishing as our roots at the shore.
Laura settled into the room that belonged to my older son in a not so comfortable bed, but she said that she slept like she hadn’t slept in years.
Maybe it was the mountain air, or the absence of street lights, or that we didn’t have television, or cell reception, or a reliable internet connection, but Laura returned home insisting on thick shades for her bedroom windows.
And yet, if you were up past midnight or if you woke at 4 am, like I did this morning, anticipating my own pilgrimage–not to Laura’s birthday which we celebrated together at the shore last year, but to a gathering of her loved ones–you could always find a friend in Laura online, and she would say, so compassionately, “Why aren’t you sleeping?” as if your suffering, so simple compared to hers, was the most important suffering of all.