On Monday night my friend Virginia died. She was hiking alone, fell to her death, and was not recovered until Tuesday. She was 27 years old.
I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to figure out if I even have the right to grieve for Virginia and write about her and what she meant to people. There are others who were certainly closer and spent more time with Virginia. I call her a friend, but I didn’t know her well. I’ve never been to her home, I don’t have her phone number, I didn’t even know that her older sister works at the same university I work at. I met Virginia almost two years ago at Inman Perk Coffee. She was the new barista and I liked her instantly. I’d see her at the coffeeshop several times a week and when she got a different job I still saw her pretty regularly. The folks who hang out on the town square make-up a close knit community. She was part of the gang. We weren’t close, but she was certainly a friend.
See, Virginia had the extrodinary gift of making you feel like a friend. Her effusive personality made connecting with Virginia easy. She listened, she remembered things you told her, and she always seemed genuinely glad to see me, Sam, and my kids. She exuded friendship, warmth and spunk. Virginia didn’t just smile, she radiated joy. When she smiled her nose crinkled and her eyes laughed. Our last conversation was about how we love the people we love, but we also love time to be alone. Blanket forts and kitty cuddles were sometimes more important and necessary than socializing.
The worst part of this grief is knowing that she filled an important role in the lives of others that is now empty; she was a daughter, sister, aunt, coworker, and close friend. There are Virginia-shaped holes littering my hometown and there is, of course, nothing to say to help close the gap of those wounds. All I can do is sit in the moment with loss, dispense hugs, and remember Virginia. There is a passage in the memoir Lament for a Son that explains the longevity of grief, “Rather often I am asked whether the grief remains as intense as when I wrote. The answer is, No. The wound is no longer raw. But it has not disappeared. That is as it should be. If he was worth loving, he is worth grieving over.”
We love you Virginia, we remember you, and we miss your exuberent presence and bright smile. You are worth all of this love and all of this grief.
Rest in peace.