The always-fabulous Lauren Hornsby.
Earlier today (January 28th–it’s 1 AM on January 29th, now), it was my friend Lauren’s birthday. I tried to convey it in my last post about her, but I am not sure if I can ever fully express how much her life and her death have affected me. It’s been about five months since she passed, and I would be lying if I said a day has passed where I haven’t thought of her, no matter how briefly or for how long.
I’ve been wondering about this day for a long time. Even a month or two ago, I’d think that it’s almost January, that it’s almost the month of Lauren’s birthday. I think I remembered this so distinctly because I remember how, as kids, she’d told me that she’d been born on the day after the Super Bowl in 1991. I remembered this, and I would wonder how I would feel, how her loved ones would feel. I figured it wouldn’t be easy.
This entry might not make much sense, as I’m having a difficult time trying to express myself without making a caricature of my emotions and thoughts (which I’m sure that her friends and family have also felt through these last months as well–the depth of their love is ever-apparent, and her Facebook wall is brimming with messages, particularly today).
I wrote above that I have thought about Lauren every day. This is a true statement, and I’m very relieved that it’s true. I’ve been wondering why and how I manage to think of her so much when I hadn’t seen her for over a year before she died, when I remember how different we’d become by the time we parted ways. Aside from what I’ve written before–that she is one of the few people in my life who knew me right down to my core, all artificial differences aside–I think that Lauren defined so much of my life that I will carry her around forever, even when I’m fifty, even when I’m eighty.
I can’t count how many songs have come on my iPod during the day that she introduced to me or that I shared with her. (And even with the iPod itself–I wanted an iPod for Christmas when I was thirteen because she wanted an iPod for Christmas.) Her family was, for a time, like my own family–they drove me around just as much as my own parents did, fed me and introduced me to new ideas. My sense of humor, something that I think has come to define and distinguish (albeit not always in the best way) me, is so heavily built upon the quirky and nonsensical and often absurdist jokes we shared as adolescents. The books I read, the art I love, the clothes I like–she is a cornerstone in all of these things. And most importantly, she is a cornerstone in the things that define the key parts of me–my sense of morality, my social beliefs, my interests, and my faith in myself. And with every trial I faced before I came to college, she was there, one of my few constants.
So, I said that I didn’t think today would be easy, and it hasn’t been. I haven’t been in hysterics, but today has admittedly been very melancholy. The day itself was incredibly overcast, much like the day of her funeral. Funnily enough, I thought about this day so much in the days leading up to it, but when I woke up, it didn’t occur to me that today was the day, Lauren’s birthday. It only hit me about two hours later, as I was walking up a hill on campus–Wow. Today is the day. And I tried to think about how I felt and how it met and defied my expectations.
Today was sad. There have been days in the last five months where I cried more than I did at her funeral, more than I did on the night after her death, because death really takes some time to settle in. It settled in a little each time I realized that I couldn’t pick up the phone and text her to say, I miss you, dude, let’s get a drink sometime when one of us is in town. (It settled in a little when I realized that the last person I could call “dude” comfortably is gone.) It settled in a little when I saw that other people are letting it settle, too, that people have been posting on her Facebook to say that they miss her and that they love her dearly. And it settled in quite a lot when I remembered–only a few days ago, actually–that still-hilarious inside joke that I formed with her when we were only twelve or thirteen over something that was so obscure but so funny, and I realized that the only person besides myself who could laugh at that joke isn’t around anymore–literally nowhere on this Earth. Today was the day where I remembered all of these things at once. So, yes, it was sad.
But it was also strangely okay. After death settles, it’s somehow a comfortable presence. For me, part of it is indeed due to a pretty strong belief in God and heaven–but even people who don’t believe in all of that can still feel that comfort. Because when we are alive, we do take each other for granted, even when we try not to. When we are alive, it is physically impossible to be around one person all the time, twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. But when a person is gone, his or her presence is suddenly everywhere. Again, this can be sad–but it can also be lovely. I do feel closer to Lauren lately, as though she can see what I’m doing and feel how I’m feeling and sympathize with me and laugh with me, even though she can’t. Part of this is admittedly guilt; I wish I’d spoken to her more. But part of it is also renewed memory. Suddenly I remember everything she found funny, everything she loved that I loved, too. I’m really happy about that. So, in a way, today was easier than I thought it’d be.
To conclude, I’ll leave you with the thing that I remember about her that really moves me the most.
Throughout my life, I’ve had a little bit of a difficult time believing in myself. I’ve always been self-conscious and wary and careful. Lauren was my first big fan and cheerleader. She liked everything about my life that I thought was weird and unnatural, and over time, she came to make me feel like I was perfectly normal, and better yet, a bit of a standout. I really feel like she thought I could do anything. I thought she could do anything, too. That might be one of the most important things she gave me.
And at the end of the day, I only wish I could tell her thank you–in person–for all of these things. I guess I’ll just have to wait.
Here’s to a happy 22nd birthday to one of my dearest, oldest friends in the world.