For many years now, I’ve spent March 18th reflecting on my life and how I live it. I tend to feel a little guilty that I have the opportunity when someone I care for deeply does not. March 18th is Larry Churchill’s birthday, and if he was with us today, he would be 57. He is forever handsome and young in the picture on his headstone and in my fond memories.

Larry and I met when I was 14 and he 15. I had just moved to his hometown and had started attending the same small church he attended. The youth of the church were mostly female and Larry was a sought after young man. I think, even without the benefit of hindsight, it is safe to say that more than a few of the girls had a crush on him. On this point, I admit nothing. Larry and I become friends. We came from completely different backgrounds and circumstances but we connected. I enjoyed his take on things, so different from my own. I enjoyed his unabashed screams as we plunged over the hill of the roller coaster. I enjoyed his acting as the lead in the annual school play. I enjoyed the time we spent together, whether in group form or one on one. We shared some secrets. I’d found someone special. Larry made an impression on me that impacted my life. He was a positive influence.

Larry Churchill 1974

Larry Churchill 1974

My family relocated (again) after two years in Larry’s hometown. Larry and I wrote letters (remember those?) and spoke on the phone through the rest of high school and college. I married and started my family. Larry moved across the country and started his adult life. Contact became less frequent. Over time, we lost touch. I missed his humor and our connection. I neglected an opportunity to reconnect. I thought there was more time. There was not.

When I got the call he had passed away, I was knocked off my feet. Literally, I had to sit down and catch my breath. I cannot explain or detail my feelings other than to say I felt a deep loss and physical hurt. In these days before online availability, my husband wrote and requested a copy of Larry’s obituary for me from the small town paper. I just couldn’t grasp the enormity of my friend‘s death. It was a sad time.

I think of him often. When certain songs play, when his home state is mentioned, when someone uses sarcasm is the funniest of ways, select movie quotes. Whenever I am in the vicinity of his hometown, I stop by and visit his grave-site. I am always overwhelmed by how sad I feel when I visit, knowing that he died too young, knowing that he was someone I loved and let slip away. Staying in touch would not have stopped his passing, but it would have enriched my life and hopefully his. I regret that in my youth I took what I had with my friend for granted. I’ve tried not to make that mistake again.

March 18th was a special day for him and for many years now, for me as well, to reflect and remember. Larry is not forgotten.

If he could see this, he’d make a joke. And Laugh.