A Letter to Lauren Dunn

Dear Lauren,

I’ve always valued anniversaries from the time I was a child. A year means something in my eyes. A concrete marker of life. Another 365 day orbit around the sun concluded. Another moment to stop and take note of our progress.

And so we are back here again. Once more it is 8/25. Last year’s variant was one I’ll never forget. Started normal. Then in 2 hours I had a financial blow that frustrated me and angered me. At least it angered me for a few moments.

Because next came the phone call I would never forget. A call from my father to inform me that you, who I’d seen a mere six days earlier, had been killed in an accident. Someone I was taking a few days off to hang out with the very weekend ahead I would never see again. For a few hours there was conflicting word, yes, but by night’s end the facts were clear. You were gone. And I’m never going to see you again.

The year that has followed has been a long one. The first few months immediately afterwards were awful. For about two months I couldn’t go home on my weekends when Amanda wasn’t there. I buried myself in anything to distract me, just to forget the pain I felt at the realization you were gone. I couldn’t turn to chemical means, mind you. I was so deep in pain I drew no pleasure from alcohol or anything else I’d enjoyed.

Everything hurt. It hurt because I lived in a world that was cold enough to take you, my friend.

Before this, I had no idea what mourning felt like. I’ve lost three people close to me before and in all three instances, I was prepared. In the case of my mother’s mother I was even glad the pain was over. I missed them but I had a framework for their deaths. They were old. Old people die. I had no framework for the girl who’d crashed on my couch the Wednesday before dying.

Intellectually, I even thought I’d understood the topic. I don’t know if I ever told you this but I spent the summer of 2001 researching grief for a book. So I knew all of this was coming in my mind. But the emotions? The crying in public? The inability to feel? None of that was predicted sadly.

There were times too that I felt guilty for my pain. I thought it was unearned. We hadn’t seen each other too regularly over the years. For at least 7, barely if at all. True, in the last four, things has picked up immensely, but still not every week. Would you even count me high among those who’d miss you? I’m sure you’d expect me at your funeral, and I was there, but would you expect this? Did I deserve to be this angry and sad? Was I just feeling this to feel it?

I’ve come to a realization though. I feel this anger and pain not over the amount of time we spent but the quality. Lauren, there was never a moment where I was in your presence that I wasn’t breathless trying to keep up with you. You were a burst of energy and life that made every second with you count. You truly were a friend like few I’ve ever had in my life. If I mourn so greatly it’s because however limited our interactions might’ve been at times, they mattered to me. I cherish every single one.

And I have so many things I wish I could tell you. I can’t watch a movie without the lunge to my phone to ask your thoughts on it. You missed the entire Oscar season last year! I miss getting to watch a movie and just hear your thoughts on it. You got them like nobody else. You were also one of the only people I’ve known who read my writing. I wish you could give me feedback on my latest script. You knew what you were talking about!

I mourn that the weekend we had planned never came to pass. We had such fun things in store and I would’ve loved getting to be out there with you and Maegan. You’ll be happy to know btw that Amanda’s spending time with her which I think is awesome. But I mourn that we didn’t get THAT time. It would’ve been epic and I miss it.

I miss all the time we didn’t get. Times so amazing they’re beyond my reach to even imagine. Times in an alternate future yet for us. None of that will ever come to pass and I’m broken for it. You never even got to crash at our new, much more awesome house.

You were such a special, amazing person. Such a force of life. And I needed you this year. There were times when life got hard and Amanda and I would’ve been for the better to get to hang out with and just chat. Whatever indescribable magic friendship imparts in such situations, I needed it.

And yet, in my pain, I turn my mind to the time we did have. I think of high school. I think of Mrs. Johnson’s room. I think of the Towne Centre theater. I think of Journalism Days. I think of Facebook chats. I think of the Breckenridge Village and the Rave. I think of Scott Pilgrim. I think of our homes. I think of Amanda’s apartment. I think of the wedding. I think of the house on Durwood. I think of the arcade. I think of never really saying more than an exhausted, mumbled goodbye to you.

And then I think of these words “It was really really great to get to hang out and talk to you more this visit!” I never responded to your text. I’m sorry I didn’t. I guess I figured I’d get the chance later.

Lauren, I don’t know what lies beyond us. You had more faith than I. But I have to believe in something more because something more means I’ll get the chance to see you again. And that’s worth hoping for.

I love you and I miss you,
Austin Shinn

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2 thoughts on “A Letter to Lauren Dunn

  1. I was just reminded of high school, in the photo lab after all classes had been dismissed, singing along to Cheese Burger in Paradise. The fact her brother Jordan always seemed to be at my house then gave us a reason to talk. Too many people I knew died last year. A few I honestly loved. It never gets easier, you just learn to go on with a piece of you missing. You remember how their love made you feel and you get them back for a little while. Knowing them changes who you are as a person in some way, but so does losing them.

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