One day I’ll come back and fill you in on everything that happened in Perth, including the road trip around the coast with Steffen, Jake and John. But Perth will always remind me of the news I got one Sunday morning when I stumbled downstairs to check my email.
It was the morning of May 4th in Perth, which meant it was May 3rd in Seattle. I logged into Gmail to shoot off a happy birthday email to Peter when I found he was already online. After I IM-ed him an all-caps HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! he broke the news to me: Laura, our childhood friend who had been fighting leukemia, passed away that morning. Although I only mentioned her briefly — she accompanied me on my trip to the Boeing Museum of Flight — seeing Laura was one of the highlights of my trip to Seattle.
My first reaction was disbelief. Laura had fought cancer hard for two years, and well before she was diagnosed I had always thought of her as the strongest person I knew. She had the physical capacity of a Power Ranger and the will of Rambo. If anyone could have beat that disease, it was her. And if she couldn’t, what chance would any of us have. But I also knew that she had been in a lot of pain, both emotional and physical, and that going peacefully, surrounded by everyone that she loved and who loved her, was for the best
It was only after I talked to Peter that I saw the emails from Rebecca and Molly. I called Bec and told her I wanted to come back. She said everyone would understand if I didn’t come back for the funeral, which would be in a couple days. But I already knew what I was going to do. With some luck, I arranged a flight out of Perth that night, connecting via Brisbane and LAX, arriving in Philadelphia the next day.
What I never forgave myself for was something that had been sitting in my backpack for weeks. When I was at the Twelve Apostles I bought Laura a postcard; she had told me how she visited the same site and I knew she’d love it, if not for at least the geological significance. But after I bought it she took a turn for the worse, and suddenly I couldn’t think of the right words. I never got to send it to Laura, but I did get to give it to her mother the day after I came home.
With respect to her and her family, I won’t go into the details of my trip home. It was good to see my friends and family, although under terrible circumstances, and altogether too short. And it was good to say goodbye to an old friend. With just a fraction of her strength and grace I can overcome any obstacle, and I’ll always keep a piece of her with me.