On May 6, 2011, I was in the Intensive Care Unit at Stanford Hospital when Lara Borowski died. She was surrounded by friends. Tom Petty was playing on the radio.
I drove back to my Mom’s house, about an hour from Palo Alto to Walnut Creek, cracked a bottle of bourbon and wrote the following:
“The most unfailingly generous, kind, and compassionate person I have ever known passed away tonight at the age of 31. Lolly was the kind of person who made the people around her feel lucky to be alive, because it meant they got to have her in their lives. She was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a terrible disease that sent her into the hospital countless times and made it a struggle to enjoy her favorite things: running, hiking, the outdoors. She had more right than anyone to be bitter, but instead she climbed mountains, won medals at the Transplant Olympics, got a Masters Degree, and filled her life and the lives of those around her with joy. She was the only person I’ve met who had no enemies.
Beneath her slight figure and almost childish cuteness lay a reservoir of strength and bravery no one in the world could match. She fought CF and diabetes and the many complications of the lung transplant she received nearly five years ago, but every time she faced off with death she kicked that bastard right in the teeth. Even when doctors told her family and her many, many friends that she had only hours to live, she fought on for weeks longer. She never gave up.
She was the brightest light in our lives, brilliant and warm like the colors of the sunsets she loved so much, and the world is a darker, colder place without her. We love you, Lolly. Always.”
On May 6, 2012, I woke up on a friend’s couch in San Francisco, following a long Cinco de Mayo night that ended with us drinking tequila straight from the bottle at the top of Bernal Heights Park. I dragged my hangover to the job I hated and spent the afternoon—it was a Sunday, I remember—staring at the wall, reeking of tequila and misery. I barely knew my co-workers, and I didn’t talk about what May 6 means to me with any of them.
On May 6, 2013, I went to my first day at a new job, this one in New York. I could tell in the first few minutes of that Monday morning that I was going to hate the job even more than I’d hated my last one. I didn’t know any of my co-workers, and I didn’t talk about what May 6 means to me with any of them.
Today is May 6, 2014. I actually kind of like the job I have, and I get along with my co-workers, and some of them even know about Lolly. Three years later, things have gotten better in my life, but missing her doesn’t get easier. Today’s always the hardest one. But I’ve made it through every May 6 so far, and I’ll make it through this one, too. I’ll try to appreciate a few of the things that she enjoyed. I’ll go to the park and get a little sun. I’ll pet a happy dog. I’ll eat some oreos. I’ll play a few Tom Petty songs on the guitar.
It’ll hurt. I’ll cry. And I’ll get through it. That’s all any of us can do.