It’s Sunday night and the house is empty again. Aidan has returned to school, and our weekend guests have headed south toward Philly.
The hush. The still. The simplicity. Tonight, the empty house is a friend.
In this spaciousness, I am brought to tears. Not once, but several times, consecutively.
“We buried my friend today,” I want to say, but that’s not true. It was only her ashes we released over the Whetstone Brook because she was drawn toward it when she visited 5 years ago.
“I love that creek near your house,” she’d say.
“It’s a brook,” I’d tell her.
That trip was her first and only one to Vermont, and she came in the winter, and she hates winter, and she was very sick then too. But it was my 50th birthday, and I had planned a women’s weekend, and she wanted to be here, much like she wanted to make it to London during my semester abroad when we were 20.
Despite her fragile state (though fragile is never a word that could be used to describe my friend), she traveled alone ahead of her husband and our friends so that she could have an extra day before the festivities.
The sky grew dark by the time her train pulled in, and a light snow began to fall.
She and I walked up the hill to the Co-op to meet my family, and we took it slow, stopping often. “It’s okay, Kel,” she said, “I’ll be okay.”
We were wild together once—dancing, laughing, gallivanting—in London, in Philly, at the Jersey shore.
Now all her wild was inside.
We got together again a couple years after my 50th for a long weekend in Cape May. We celebrated her birthday. She was doing really well that time. She loved the sea. Even in February.
No one knew it would be her last.
If you’ve followed me on Facebook ahead of the election in 2016, you may have recognized our friendship by our fierce arguments.
You may or may not have noticed the ways we “liked” each other’s family photos and celebrated each other’s milestones. You wouldn’t have known that behind the scenes, we checked in on each other’s kids and talked about her treatments and made plans to meet up when we could.
Laura talked a lot about making it back to Vermont in the summertime, admiring as she did all the photos I posted of the pond.
“My son Cameron has to get there too,” she’d say, “He thinks like you do.” (They’d argued fiercely too.)
On the day after the election, I posted an image of myself. It was reminiscent of the photo I knew as a child: the weeping chief looking over the littered land.
Laura messaged me immediately: “Maybe women will really rise up now,” she said, encouraging me, with deep compassion, even while celebrating her candidate’s shocking victory.
I missed the Women’s March. Laura was hospitalized that week, and died on the eve of the inauguration.
It’s funny that she’s come to Vermont again just ahead of the mid-terms. Her son Cameron and I talked politics all weekend, doing our part to bend the arc of history toward justice.
As we took a pinch of her ashes and let them go over the rushing waters of the Whetstone Brook, it began to snow.