My Old Friend Died But She Wasn’t Old

An old college friend died last night from cancer. Except she wasn’t old. She was 51.

Not two years into her second marriage, she succumbed to cancer after fighting a heroic fight. She tried every drug, practiced positivity, sought the best doctors, and even traveled to Brazil to a healer. Name it. She did it. She so wanted to live.

Truth be told, she and I had fallen out of touch as that happens. We lived a hundred miles apart. We were Facebook friends – whatever that means. We exchanged emails and texts: Let’s get together! So much to catch up on! But we never did.

At the risk of sounding trite when speaking of the dead, I’ll just say it: She was beautiful. Yes, inside. And charming as the day is long. But she was also physically stunning. The kind of stunning that folks would stop her on the street to simply say, “Wow. You are gorgeous.” I witnessed this firsthand more than once. Men virtually fell at her feet.

I have many beautiful friends but, for her, the world stopped to take notice.

She was what some call Black Irish. She had dark, wavy hair and blue eyes so piercing and light, they were the color of the sky. That’s the truth. Risk of triteness, once again, aside. One of her sons has those same eyes.

Her first marriage was to a man almost as beautiful as she. A tall, handsome Italian, their wedding photos looked like something out of Bride’s Magazine. A huge wedding I barely remember except for the best man’s speech: “May all your ups and downs be beneath the sheets.” Oh, yes, and the bridegroom drank champagne out of her shoe.

And her charisma? Pure magic. The world just seemed to do her bidding. Her college roommate remembers that once, when they couldn’t pay their phone bill, she called the phone company and tried talking them into forgiving it. And they did.

Hers was a magic of kindness and sweetness. She exuded pure love. The combination of her warmth and beauty were mesmerizing. She also had some zany health scares over the years – always resolved – and now I can’t help but wonder if they were signs worse things were to come.

Did we ever think on that spring break trip to Fort Lauderdale that a mere thirty years later she would be dead? That when her new husband was drinking bubbly out of her white satin shoe that twenty-something years later she’d be divorced, remarried and now, gone? That she would die when her boys were still way too young to lose their mother?

Answers: No, no and no.

Do I dare mention she didn’t live a perfect life? She didn’t. Along with the rest of us, I’m sure there were many things she’d rather forget. Many things she would have liked do-overs for if do-overs were possible in adult life. But they’re not. And like all of us, she lived and died with her demons, mistakes and regrets.

But she died loving and loved. By so many. Obviously, of course, by her children and husband. But her ex-in-laws will mourn her as if she were their own daughter. Her stepchildren are heartbroken. Her ex-husband’s new partner and child will be front-row mourners.

Because that was Lauri. Once you entered her orb, you didn’t leave and you didn’t want to. She challenged the way we assume relationships need to evolve. She pushed the boundaries because she knew that, although the definition of relationships change, love doesn’t. She took the painful ordinariness of broken relationships and families and healed them through sheer willfulness and unrelenting love. And people got on board.

She left behind what most of us would like to: a wake of warmth and healing. And a boatload of people whose lives are now joined in peace rather than rancor. And love. Always love.

(Originally published July 2013)


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