To a Dear Friend, Farewell

I lost a friend this weekend. Laura Wilkinson, who I’ve known since the long-ago days of Jr. High, who was born only a day before I came into this world, is gone.

Like many childhood friends, we saw too little of each other in adulthood. Staying in touch after your lives have changed and diverged can be difficult, and I’m worse than most in that regard. If not for the miracle of technology, we might have lost touch entirely. I am so glad that didn’t happen.

The weight of a friendship isn’t measured only in the number of words exchanged, though. It is a connection that survives distance and time, that can seem invisible in our daily lives while remaining a vital, essential part of who we are. By that measure, Laura was as true a friend as I’ve had.

I’ve known Laura since 7th grade. Our relationship did what many do in adolescence: it waxed, and it waned. It sometimes seemed to vanish entirely before a sudden sharing of homeroom period revived it. There were people I spent more time with than Laura, friendships that were more active, more more a part of my daily life. But as I said: friendships are more than the sum of days spent. What matters is that my friendship with Laura lasted. It endured. And it affected me deeply.

When senior year came, and the two of us, both single, wanted to go to prom without being tied to a capital-D Date, we found a safe choice in each other. We dressed up, posed together for pictures, ate dinner, then went our mostly separate ways for the rest of the party. It’s not how we’re told a great prom is supposed to go, but a great prom it was.

If you’ve read my first novel, Laura might sound familiar. Broken Magic‘s queen of the theater shares her name and appearance — though not her personality; writing from real life inspiration is a mixed up and strange thing. And though that character is the most obvious mark Laura left, it’s far from the most important.

10924701_10152864893289285_1733357310097912480_n
Laura (left) on the night of Senior Prom.

Before we parted ways on prom night, we congregated with the other non-conformist types who’d holed up the hotel’s large, open cube of pay phones. There, I met one of Laura’s friends. Someone who’d later adopt me into her own clan: the theater kids. Without Laura’s friendship, without her trust — and what is friendship, really, but trust? — that we could safely go to prom together while still having our own experiences, an important part of my life would not have happened.

Quite simply, without that friendship, there is no Broken Magic, because the person who wrote that novel would have never come to be.

I am who I am because of my friendship with Laura Wilkinson.

Though we grew in different directions, though Laura and I hadn’t crossed paths in far too long, Laura was a dear and important friend. I cannot express how much I’ll miss her, how much it hurts to no longer know she’s there. To have lost the hope that fate would, once again, allow us time together. Even briefly.

When we lose someone, we say they’ll be remembered. But there is something deeper than memory that Laura leaves behind. The person she was, and the life she led, bettered those of us who knew her.

Laura, you will be missed, and you will be remembered. But more importantly, your soul lives on through the lives you touched. May we all find a way to be worthy of that honor.

Farewell, dear friend.

To those who knew Laura or would simply like to help, her family is accepting donations to cover the cost of her funeral.

This entry was posted in Doing. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to To a Dear Friend, Farewell

  1. Nancy Zimmerman says:

    Dear Eric,
    My heart goes out to you because you have lost a friend, an inspiration, Laura. Her impact on you will never end, but I know that there will be a space in your heart reserved for her. Please accept my deepest sympathy.
    AuntN

  2. nypinta says:

    So sorry to hear about the loss of your friend.

  3. Carole Mannino says:

    Eric, I am very sorry to hear about your friend’s passing. May your memories of her bring you comfort.

  4. Jack Tell says:

    I just read your very moving account of you friend, Laura. Your reflection touched me so I had to contact your Dad. That second paragraph describes our relationship so very much. I told him we are blessed to have two wonderful sons, and he agreed. May you always keep these wonderful memories of Laura, and treasure them.
    Jack, Jane and John Tell

  5. Danielle says:

    Well said, Eric, well said. She was an incredible person and she touched many lives. I am so sad that her life was cut short. What a tragedy her passing is for anyone who met her, let alone knew her. She was a shining glimmering star in the darkness that was otherwise known as adolescence for us. Her early departure does make one wake up and take notice of what we have in life and what we have lost or are close to losing. Friendships like the one you described are precious and we should always be thankful for them. They have shaped us into who we are today. Thank you for reminding me, my friend. Thank you.

  6. Kim Mann says:

    Eric,

    I am really sorry for your loss specifically, and the loss the world has experienced with Laura’s death. Your sentiment, “[t]he person she was, and the life she led, bettered those of us who knew her” embodies what I try to live every day. To me, that statement is the biggest compliment you can say about anyone and truly defines a person that matters in this world. I wish I had heard about her before this, but thank you for sharing.

    Kim

  7. Sharlene says:

    Eric,
    I am so sorry that at your young age you have to deal with the loss of a very special friend. I do not think there is any loss that is more painful than that of a special friend. It is apparent that she had quite an impact on you and those she touched. Your words are very deep and touching. I am sorry her life was not long enough to touch so many more. She will be cherished forever by those she did get to touch. RIP Laura.
    Shar

  8. Marina Sabatini McCormick says:

    Thank you for writing this, Eric. It was a beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul.

  9. Im truly sad im so sorry about their family’s and her kids it hurting inside out losing their mother of her childrens! Im going miss laura vandergift wilikinson since graduate school Hopewell senior high school i know her sister Rachel they are twins. I knew her in my gym class…

  10. Nikki Hysong says:

    Eric, that was so beautifully written! My heart has been hurting since I read the sad news the other day. And for some reason my mind didn’t go back to high school or junior high instead I immediately remembered a photo I have of Laura and Rachel at the table helping me blow out candles at my 6 or 7th birthday party. They lived right up the road from me since before we were even in elementary. It’s funny what our mind goes back to. She was a wonderful, smart, and funny person and my heart breaks for her close friends and family!

  11. Such gravity. Any orbit was forever changed, whomever passed through her field.

    I too have pinned her in fiction though any exaggeration or approximation grossly fails the sublime.

    She lives in the men she has made us, and so dearly in her children.

    Words fail.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *