As I’ve gotten older and learnt how life changes in the flicker of an eye, I’ve become more particular about the people I choose to have relationships with. This wasn’t always the case though.
When I was younger and still in school, it seemed I was making new friends and partying with a different group quicker than some girls go through boyfriends! (I swear high school can be more eventful than Days of Our Lives!) When I became an upper classman it was my turn to guide the freshman through their stages!
I was a member of the dance team (a captain) and took very seriously my roll. This wasn’t some teen movie version of a hazing. The new girls on the team were brought in and introduced when they were still in grade eight. We held practices all summer long before their first day of high school and had camp every summer! This was when the cliques were formed. This was when we choose our little sisters. This was the time in which we made lasting bonds to carry us through the next year of games, dances, all day practices and competition season. This was when I met Lauren.
We all sat in the cafeteria of the school. It was miserably hot. As a seasoned team member I sat with the girls from previous years suitably sizing up the newbies. We were excited. Ecstatic. This was going to be our year. We had a new coach. We had new uniforms. We had new team members. We had it all.
I knew the moment we spoke that she and I would be friends. Lauren was a bubbly person. Easy to get to know and innocent. Jeeze she was innocent. Maybe that is what I loved so much with her. I could forget my already checkered history and just be a girl with her.
We immediately were friends. From our American Eagle jeans to our Birkenstocks, we were two peas in a pod. You can imagine my disappointment when she wouldn’t be attending camp with us because she was on vacation with her family.
Still, Lauren returned, school started, and there was high school antics to be had. I can’t describe all that went on over the time we were friends. Simply because I do not have the space.
There were parties at the university and at friends houses. There was football games with short skirted uniforms and cheerleaders who thought they were better than us. There were boys to break our hearts and there were teachers to drive us mad.
And there was practice. Oh there were lots of practices. After school, before school, and quick 5 am Walmart runs for donuts before a 6 am Saturday session. We worked our butts off. As our routines came together and our moves sharpened so did our friendship.
We talked about everything! We did everything together. For once in my life, I had a friendship that was real and genuine with no strings attached.
She even stuck by me when I walked out on the team. Fed up as captain and unable to handle the spiral affect that was happening I decided that the dance was no longer in my feet. But Lauren never felt that way about our friendship. I still took her and picked her up from practices.
It was February 4, 2006. She’d had her first ever competition and couldn’t wait to tell me all about it. We talked and she told me all the ups and downs for the day. Disappointed about a loss but still her cheery self at having had the experience she’d worked so hard for. She expressed how desperately she wished I hadn’t quit and would come back to the team.
As a stubborn teenager this angered me. To me it seemed my best friend wasn’t supporting my decision! This is solely the most regrettable moment in my life. I told Laurent that I had to cancel our plans for the night as I was sleeping over at my moms.
I went to dinner with my dad, met up with my boyfriend and we went to my moms to watch movies.
Lauren made other plans and continued to call me to come out.
I’ve never in my life wished more I’d just have answered the phone.
Hours later I got the call that has changed my life. When I answered the phone I could tell my girlfriends had been partying and after all it was Saturday night. We tended to get into some sillyness and figured what ever they wanted was about to be some kind of prank in a pathetic attempt to get me to come out.
Immediately I was in shock. This prank was taking it to far. Above the sound of sirens (how were the pulling that off) and behind choked back sobs, I heard two words that were beyond believable. Laurens dead.
Screaming I told them it was a creul joke and hung up the phone. But before I could tell my mom what was going on my phone was ringing again. My heart stopped. Literally I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. This was my best friend. A girl I introduced as my sister. This was the first Saturday in months…MONTHS…that I wasn’t with her. She was having dinner with her dad then going to a friends house. I know this cannot be. This girl is my lifeline in all that happens in the world of high school. I couldn’t have a hair melt down or a jean get too tight without consulting her. This was taking it beyond natural limits.
Finally I answer and immediately start yelling at them. On the other end a level headed (as always) Megan tells me very seriously that they aren’t joking. She tells me where the accident is and that I need to get there as Laurens dad was just pulling up.
The next couple of hours blur through my mind. It is winter and I run out without a coat and in my slops. My mom still is unsure exactly what is going on and quickly hands Stephan (the boyfriend) my coat and says to keep an eye on me. I’ve never driven so fast in my life and a 15 minute drive took under 10 as I sped through our town to the outskirts where my friend lay in the cold.
Call in fate or call in coincidence but as I started my car that night Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel” came through my speakers. As the sound engulfed my every emotion I knew what they had told me was true. The tears burned hot down my face.
I turned the corner to the road where the accident happened. It was still about a mile and a half up the country street but I could see the flashing emergency lights already. I couldn’t carry on. I stopped the car and climbed out hysterically.
I am not sure what goes through our minds at a point like this. I stood in the middle of the road at night screaming into the nothingness. I fought with every ounce of strength I had as Stephan ushered me back into the car.
He drove the rest of the way and I was out of the car before it even stopped on sight. As I ran towards the over turned car multiple officers stopped me. I can only imagine how I looked and seemed as I flailed and hit whomever approached me. Eventually Laurens stepmom saw me and told them to let me go. I was allowed past the yellow tape but not to the car. She explained what the paramedics and told her and sat me down in the fire truck.
I’m not sure how long we sat there or how many more friends showed up during this time but eventually it was decided all of us would go to the hospital where the driver of the car, Shannon, had been taken for minor injuries.
Over 50 of us sat in the ER triage not knowing where to go or what to do next. We held each other. We cried. We asked a lot of whys.
We were told that Shannon was ok and would be released that night. We gathered together the closest of friends with Shannon and went to IHOP since it was the only place open at 2 am.
The next morning we gathered together at church, went to lunch, then met with an officer from the night before at the accident sight. We walked over and over again the path the car took and listened as we were told what had happened.
They weren’t drinking. They weren’t doing drugs. They weren’t even speeding.
The girls had stopped by McDonalds then took the long way home as they gossiped, phoned boys, and belted out lyrics to all the popular songs.
Shannon took her eyes off the road for a moment. Just a moment as she reached for a new CD. A deer came into the road and froze in her headlights. It was icy and snowy out and Shannon jerked the wheel. The car flipped and rolled and dug into the ditch on Laurens side. Shannon walked away by the grace of God and ran for help. Lauren never suffered and was in God’s arms before the car stopped moving.
After this, I’ve kept my heart on reserve. It took days to accept it and we held a huge memorial. I gave speeches at school about the dangers of driving at night and how we must be extra aware during hunting season of the animals. Nothing brings her back. Only time heals the pain.
A relationship like the one I had with Lauren can only be experienced not explained. She was more than a friend and not a day has gone by that I haven’t thanked God for the time he allowed her to be a part of my life. I learnt that true friendships do exist.
Occasionally when I walk down the street or stand in line at a checkout I will have to do a double take. I still know her smell. It haunts my sleep. Sometimes if I’m lucky I even smell it in a breeze of wind.
I became very close with Shannon after all of this and we are still close although we are thousands of miles apart. Lil Mister and her son FatMac only differ in age by 2 weeks!
Not a day has passed though that I haven’t asked God why her.
So today, I take a moment and remind myself of the beauty God has placed in my life. I thank him for the people close to me and remind myself to always ALWAYS take every moment they are here for granted.
The pain doesn’t go away, it has just formed its own little place in my heart to stay locked away.