My Memorial Day

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I love the hotdogs, county fair, and pool parties that populate my Memorial Days, but it is never far from my mind that this is the day to remember the fallen soldiers. Young and old, men and women, who laid their lives down in service in far flung lands, while I sat safely over here for all these years. I am lucky enough to count myself among the few who do not mourn a specific member of the armed services this day, but I do honor their service.

I also do mourn on this day. Eight years ago, after a wonderful Memorial Day of sailing on the San Francisco Bay, I returned to my new apartment in Cow Hollow to several urgent voice mails from friends I’d just left in New York a month prior. One of my best friends from NYC had passed away suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition.

Lauren was jogging with her boyfriend in Central Park and collapsed, gone before she hit the ground. She was 26 years old, a model, an aspiring life coach, and one of the most inspirational people I have ever known. I spoke to her every day. She walked with me through one of the most difficult periods of my life, when I was coming out of a very self-destructive phase, and led me back to myself. She’d helped me decide to move back to California, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and we continued to talk every day. In fact, I’d left her a voice mail earlier that morning. And now she was gone.

I hit my knees. My legs could not support me, and gravity drove me into the appropriate mourning position. I lost my mind a bit. I’d never lost anyone so close to me and so suddenly before. I called a friend, as Lauren had taught me to do when I needed help, and he drove me to the ocean where my rage and anguish were mercifully absorbed by the great crash of the waves.

I started my new job the next day in a trance, breaking to the bathrooms when overcome by grief to call friends and cry. My parents drove down to unpack my belongings, because I couldn’t summon the strength. I started my studies for the California bar exam the next week and was then working full time, attending bar review in the evening, and collapsing into a puddle the minute I walked in the door of my apartment at night. I wrote Lauren letters that I collected in a journal. I got calls from friends in NYC every morning to help me through the bus ride to work. I am forever grateful for all of the support I received. I still miss her.

I also now celebrate on this day. Three years ago, I awoke early Memorial Day morning with contractions. Ten days past her due date, I was finally going to meet my daughter, my first child. I labored all day at home, and we drove frantically to the hospital across the Golden Gate Bridge at 5pm on Memorial Day. There was miraculously no traffic. After extensive effort but luckily no complications, she was born at 5:38 a.m. the next morning with a perfectly round head, beautiful dark blue eyes (now hazel), and full long lashes. We named her Lauren.

Her name was to honor my lost friend, of course, but also I wanted to be reminded every time I said her name of the love and patience that name represents, of true friendship. And now, having just celebrated my little Lauren’s third birthday on another beautiful Memorial Day weekend, my heart is so full. I am full of gratitude and love for my friend Lauren, who helped me find my way to this beautiful life I get to lead, grief that her beautiful life was cut short, and overwhelming joy and love for my sweet baby girl who does her name proud every day.

I send my love to all the families and friends who mourn fallen members of the armed forces on this day. I know the grief of the sudden loss of loved ones too young, but I do not know of the accompanying sacrifice of that life being laid down in service to this country. I hope we will all take a moment on this beautiful Memorial Day to honor that sacrifice.

Please share your stories in the comments if you’re so inclined, or let me know how you honor Memorial Day.

Honoring a Lost Friend on Memorial Day

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4 Comments

  1. I am in tears. I know the story. I have heard it before. And every time I hear it,I cry . We are so lucky, our friends impact our souls. I love you Ashley, and adore the beautiful Lauren that you hold in your arms. Aunt Rose

  2. I just wanted to tell you how incredibly moving your story was. Emma and I read it together and were choked up the whole way. I am so sorry for your friend’s loss of her own life and for the world of people who lost what sounds like such a special soul. I have no doubt your little Lauren will continue to do her name proud. Sending you and everyone with this kind of heartbreaking story love.

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