The text on the image reads
How we deal with death matters.
A couple days ago, I learned that a friend from high school died suddenly. All of the people we have in common seem to have been notified, so I think it's okay for me to talk about it here now. No, I'm not going to use her name. I am going to reminisce a bit, though. This will be disjointed and non-chronological, just FYI.
Also, this rhino is for you, my friend.
One of my favorite memories of her is sitting next to each other in Calculus, making each other laugh about math. It's a special kind of person that'll chortle about calculus with you.
And the woman could sing! I think the first time I heard her sing was in that same Calculus class. Our teacher was doling out bonus points or something if we sang the school anthem. It was to the same tune as "On Wisconsin" and I just wouldn't make myself do it. She absolutely did, though! It was full of heart and sounded like she was singing a smile.
The next time I heard her sing was after high school. She came to San Francisco for a choir event. She stayed with me in my tiny apartment and willingly and happily wandered about the city with me. She didn't complain when I put us on a bus that ended up on the other side of a hill from where she needed to be. I felt like such an unprepared jerk-face, but she didn't care. We made it on time (I think), even if we were a little winded. She was even prepared to go back up and over the hill to that same bus line again after the singing was over. Luckily, I realized there was a flatter route before we had to make that trek. The trip home was much easier.
She even talked to me about singing, which is not something I knew much about. I remember her saying that vibrato wasn't her favorite and that she preferred a crisply held note. I have no idea what the proper terminology for that is. I'm sure she told me. She talked about the acoustics of the room they were singing in and why the singers stood in a circle in that circular room. She explained why the sound resonated and what the experience was for her as a singer.
She was good in front of a crowd. We both did drama club, and I swear she was fearless. She just went on out on that stage and did her thing. I learned to do similarly, but, for her, it seemed to come from a place of joy and courage. For me, it was sheer scrappiness and an unwillingness to allow my fears to win. There was one scene in "Our Town" in our Junior year where we shared the floor together. We came off the stage and were at the same level as the audience while she extolled her character's wisdom, and I played off everything she gave me like a shadow to her shine.
She was like that, shiny. She was sunny and happy and ready. I think I only ever saw her upset at times when it made sense for a person to be upset. There was no drama or teenage foolery. She was a steady person way back then, and, from what I know of her as an adult, she nurtured and fostered those things in herself and spread all her joy around.
She even sent me rhino photos once. The rhino in my digital painting here is from one of the photos she sent me. She went to South Africa and was gracious enough to share her photo safari images of rhinos with me. It looked like she had a blast!
One last memory I want to share is one that pops up in my mind often. We ran into each other randomly in a small airport in the middle of America once. It was so unexpected that I didn't know how to behave. Now, so many years later, I don't remember how either of us behaved. Since then, I kept half an eye out for her whenever I flew anywhere.
And this is where I stop because sadness is on the horizon. If I ever do fly again (I'm pointing my finger at you, 'rona), I'm still going to keep half an eye out for her. The chance of an accidental airport meet up happening twice in our lives was already super slim. I won't make myself erase the possibility even though I know it doesn't make any sense. What's a little irrationality between friends?
(Yes, that was a math joke.)