Monday, June 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Lori.

Song for this post: "Angel" ~ Sarah McLaughlin

In the seventh grade a new student came to our school. She was bubbly and funny and smart and independent. I met her in gym the locker rooms. My friend Kristina introduced us. And that was it. We were inseparable.  Coryn and I spent just about every waking minute together for the next 5 years. If one of us tried out for a sport, we both did. If one of us was in choir, the other was too. Cheerleading, pageantry, advanced classes, you name it. Coryn was better at math than I was and I was better at English so we couldn't do EVERYTHING together. But it was pretty close. We were so attached that I once spent 23 solid days at her house on summer break.

20 years later she's still my best friend and that will never change.

Her parents had moved her and her brother to our hometown when her dad retired from the military. Her father had been with the US Army for 30 years before receiving a Calling to lead a church. Her mother  worked for the NSA and had her Doctorate in Political Science. I tried reading her dissertation once. I made it 2 pages before I realized I had no idea what I was reading. Lori was outrageously intelligent. She was also the kindest woman I've ever met. She had a heart so full of love you'd think she might burst at any moment. But she was also silly and stoic and thoughtful.

A year or two after I met Coryn, my family went through some major changes. Things got unpleasant and it became a less than ideal situation for a child to be in. Things came to an apex one evening and Coryn came to pick me up. I had only intended on staying for the night. Then her parents asked me to stay a few days.

After a few days, they asked me to stay a few weeks.

After a few weeks, they said they wanted me to stay indefinitely.

Lori and Bill became my guardians. They also became a foundation of family and stability that I desperately needed at that time in my life. Lori became my template. She became someone I wanted to be like. Loving, honest, genuine, dedicated. These were all things I didn't understand at that age.  My own family was struggling with a lot of dysfunction and had pretty much fallen apart. I coped with that with a lot of dishonesty and selfishness. Lori was the light through all of that darkness. She taught me integrity and love and faith and the value of family. 

Lori loved to quilt. They lived in this big old farm house and they'd converted one of the upstairs bedrooms into a crafting room for her. I'd sit up there and help her iron and stitch squares. She taught me how to sew. 

They bought me my first bible. Bill had my name engraved on it and picked out my first baptism cross to go with it. Bill was the one who baptized me in our church. Lori was the one who wrapped me in a towel afterward and hugged me.

There aren't words to describe the gratitude and overwhelming love I feel toward them both. I love my family very much and, thankfully, we've all reconciled over the years. But Lori holds this special place in my heart. She represents a shift in my trajectory. She's an angel who came and pulled me out of a very dark place.

She had been struggling with cancer when I lived with them. She eventually passed a number of years later. I can't think about it even today without tearing up. She was a gift to this world and there is none who will ever compare. She changed my life.

She would have been 56 today.

Happy birthday, Lori. 

I love you.

I miss you.

And you are the most special person I've ever had the privilege to know. 

It wouldn't be appropriate to post a picture of Lori without the family's consent. 
But here's me and Coryn, who is still my closest friend, 20 years later.

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