I keep thinking that if I read enough of the news articles online, I will find one that says it didn't really happen. That my sweet, spunky friend and 3 beautiful little girls weren't really lost. That a doting father and husband wasn't really left here without them. That roads don't fail because too much snow or rain falls.
I can't find the article that says that.
Instead, Googling "Laurel Constantinides" finds nearly 500 articles, most of which state the facts of what they call an unspeakable tragedy. A few of those articles touch on the big hearts and kindness that this family possessed. But none of them remember exactly the Laurel that I remember because in every life she touched, she left something special and unique behind.
She loved tea. And sunflowers. She had this big personality in this little, bitty body. She was so sweet and smart and kind and insightful, but she could get mad, and a little sullen, too. But mostly, she smiled and was always up for a bit of fun (or a grand adventure if the opportunity presented itself). She was spontaneous and crazy and had the best stories. She laughed a lot and she always had some wisdom or insight that was totally appropriate for all of those emotional situations one finds themselves in as a college student.
I met her when I was going through sorority rush at the University of Wyoming and I can't count the number of times we laughed and cried together on thousands of fingers and toes. She slept on the floor in my room in the sorority house when I had a bad breakup - I went with her to take some things back to the ex-boyfriend after she had a bad breakup (let it be noted that he and she both came to their senses some years later and ended up married!). We cried at the end of the semester when we parted and we glared over our shoulders at each other after a particularly dramatic summer together in a rented apartment. I called her La, she taught me to crochet, we sang Billy Joel songs together, we planned how we were going to be cool, old ladies with our silver hair, our sharp wit and our stylish clothes. She put her extra money into mutual funds (who does that at 20years old!?!?) and I spent my extra money on beer. We thought we might move to Ogallala, NE for a summer just because the name was cool. We grew up, we left the Pi Phi house behind. She read a Bible verse at my wedding, I sent her some of my daughter's clothes when Hannah came and she modeled patience and solid parenting when I visited her in Colorado Springs with my particularly cranky child.
Although we came to the point where time and distance separated us, we kept in touch via Facebook - I loved seeing her posts and pictures of her sweet, funny girls and got nostalgic when she told me she missed me if I posted about a particularly crazy adventure. She gave me a list of fostering and adoption books when I needed help for a friend and she inspired me with her ability to be a grown-up but still be a little funky with her cool clothes, her dyed hair, her pink bike and her VW camping van. I loved seeing Alex's Facebook pictures and posts about his beautiful girls - every time I saw one, I thought how happy I was that Laurel had ended up with such a wonderful man to be her husband and a father to those girls.
It is inconceivable to me that I won't see her at Homecoming or a Pi Phi reunion one of these years. That her three girls don't have the chance to grow into adulthood - Laurel would have been the best grandma ever.
I don't dare go through pictures or old letters or think too hard about those times shared years ago because I know my heart won't be able to take it right now. Laurel was a rock to me during the years that I was far from home and learning how to navigate through this world. I never imagined life without her in it.
I am no doubt one of a zillion people whose life Laurel touched in a positive and profound way. There will no doubt be a zillion people at the memorial services and my stories and memories will blend in with all the rest. But I feel profoundly blessed to be one of those to have stories and memories that I can hold on to...for all of those who didn't know Laurel in this life, just look for a bright, shining light in the next - believe me when I say you don't want to miss knowing this one.
Rest in peace, Laurel. You will be missed.