Our years in LA were full of all sorts of magic, everything new and shiny and on the cusp...of careers, of true independence, of new friendships, different relationships, a new life chapter. They were formative years to be sure, and while there were certainly difficulties in that sundrenched playground, when I think back on that time, the feeling that comes over me is mostly one that is carefree, wide open, full of forward momentum, nonstop fun.
I met my husband out there, started my career, learned how to really navigate adulthood, cemented important friendships that remain today. I felt strong, like I was where I needed to be. The water's edge was my refuge and I made a great life on the streets and in the studios and on the film lots and on the beach and in the bars and so on and so forth.
And in the midst of all of it was Heather. Heather with the twinkling eyes, the megawatt smile. The uncanny ability to know every word to every song, ever, especially rap songs. Heather who loved to dance, who laughed out loud, vigorously, a lot. Heather the jewelry maker, the cat lover, the formidable flippy cup opponent. In every memory I have, she is laughing or dancing or both.
We left LA nearly eight years ago and built a new life and a family in Chicago. I haven't seen or spoken to Heather in those years, but I thought of her from time to time and prayed for her as she began a valiant and brave fight against metastatic breast cancer. I followed her journey from afar and was always astounded and inspired by her spirit, her character and her commitment to live the shit out of every single day, against enormous odds and obstacles.
She died last weekend. She was my age. I can't stop thinking about it. I'm glad she's at peace, that she no longer suffers. But as I read through some of the journal entries she published on her caring bridge page, I'm struck again and again by the notion that she wasn't finished, she had so much more to give, to do.
In her honor, I'm trying to keep perspective, practice constant gratitude, recognize every moment of every day for the true gift that they are.
Rest well, sweet Heather. You were a mighty warrior, and your spirit lives on. I'll embrace every opportunity to take in a beach sunset, to sing along to rap songs, to dance with my kids. And I will think of you when I do.