It’s been ten years since my dear friend Laura passed away. Every year around this time, I start missing her more and reminiscing. A few years ago I wrote a post about her and I wasn’t sure I had anything more to say.
The loss I experience since her death is nothing compared to what I imagine her children, husband, and family feels. It still is a loss that I recognize frequently, even though we were not in close contact when she passed away. Not due to any ill will on either of our parts, but because our lives had gotten in the way. While I am very much a texter and social media user, Laura was more inclined to talk on the phone. It was difficult finding spare moments to catch up with each other, especially because her children were not only very young but in activities as well. Laura had also received a cancer diagnosis a few years before her passing and it was hard to remain close from far away when she was dealing with so much.
I often wonder how our friendship would have evolved as we got older. Because she was two years older than I am, many of the things she experienced in her life happened before I would meet those benchmarks. Graduating from high school and college. Getting married. Having children. How would we have related to each other as 48 and 50-year-old women now? How could we still be, at the core, the two Catholic schoolgirls who bonded so easily over a mutual love of singing alto? (You can tell how cool and popular we were, based on how we became close.)
The high point of us getting together over the years – whether it was when she was home from college or I was home from wherever I was living at the time – was ending up at one of our pianos with the Bag O’Music we loved singing together. A Penn State tote bag someone gave me became a repository for Chris and Laura’s Greatest Hits: the cheesiest compilations of love songs, favorite songs we sang in Regional Chorus competitions or Seasonal Singers, and the many Glory and Praise numbers from school Masses. Many of the scores were pieces that I “completely forgot to return to Miss M” because Laura and I secretly wanted sing them together again and again.
Bag O’Music, as Laura dubbed our collection, has always been in my possession. Some of our favorites included “Sow the Word” and the Seasonal Singers’ favorite goodbye song, “Maybe Someday” (it’s in the very appealing key of D-flat and suited our alto voices very well). Laura also had a contemporary (circa 1980s) duet book of songs on the radio. One of the best ones was “Where We Belong” because it had this kooky chord buildup that caused us to crack up laughing every single time. The lyrics to that song also remind me of “Like an Eagle” which was always a graduation fave and another one we, ahem, borrowed from the Bishop Hoban music department.
Our friendship was based on our love of music and singing and talking. Laura could have pursued a music degree, but chose not to. She majored in economics. She had such a great ear and a deep love for music, especially choral music. I’ve always been more into pop music than anything high-minded so i always found it amusing that when I’d go to Laura’s before going somewhere, she’d be doing her hair and makeup blasting the Brahms Requiem.
Whether it’s theologically aligned with my religion, I don’t know, but I still feel a relationship with people who have passed away. It’s comforting to imagine being seen and heard by Laura. Sometimes I think of how happy she’d be that I had a son because she was the mom of two boys. Even preparing to give birth, six years after she passed away, I recalled how labor went for her and I planned on being proactive about getting an epidural because of her. (Here I will tip my proverbial hat to any of you who toughed it out and delivered your babies sans anesthesia. I have a high pain threshold, but I didn’t want to find out how high on a day like that.)
Laura is someone I truly admired. I loved her so much and it pains me that I can’t even remember what the last phone call or time we saw each other was. She was so ridiculously intelligent and knew the right words to say. Of all my friends that I’ve exchanged cards and letters with over the years, Laura’s are among the keepers. There was always a funny quip in them that just felt so right.
I know her presence is still with me even though we cannot communicate in person anymore. She’s with me when I feel confused by how best to parent my child, when I sit down at the piano, and when I drive by our old high school back in Wilkes-Barre. I don’t care how it sounds when I say that I hope we meet again someday, somehow. I’ll definitely have the Bag O’Music with me.