Almost a year ago today.  I remember it.  It stands out in my mind.  It was Super Bowl weekend.  I was excited to watch the big game.  I was looking forward to a nice, relaxing weekend of watching football and just relaxing with my husband and maybe some of our friends.  All that good stuff.

But none of that is the reason why I am remembering the date today.  A year ago today, I pulled up my Facebook feed on my phone, without thinking anything of it, like most people.  About two minutes later, the tears welled up in my yes.  And once I got confirmation, the tears no longer welled but flowed freely.

You see, I got some unexpected news.  I learned that someone I considered a friend had passed away the previous night.  Annie Wright was about my age and had been in my class at Bloomington North, and we had even had classes together in the horror known as junior high.  She was young and healthy.  So it was shocking, to say the least.  Annie was particularly full of life and seemed fearless, which made the blow even worse.

I am an introvert.  This should not come as a shock to anyone who knows me.  I also have a lot of trouble making and keeping friends.  Part of this is just because I have always been that way.  Its in my blood, you could say.    I have spent much of my life pretty closed off to most people because of this.  So, for the most part, I just prefer to banish the memory of high school entirely.

However, Annie was one of the few I remembered fondly.  She was different and not ashamed of it at all.  She wore prairie skirts and combat boots, and was so confident of these choices, even when the majority were wearing jeans and flannel shirts.  Since we lived in a small-ish Midwestern town, it took courage to go against the grain.  I did try, but Annie was far more courageous than I ever was.  She just didn’t give a damn, and simply did as she pleased, not giving a damn about peer pressure, either.  In other words, she was everything I wished I could be.

I remember that I wrote an essay for our freshman English class.  I don’t remember what the essay was about, except that it was based on the play Our Town.  And my English teacher (gasp) chose my essay to read aloud.  This was an advanced English class, but no high school student really wants to be singled out, especially for something academic related.  I think I managed to avoid slithering down in my seat but probably blushed just a little (ok, it was really a lot).  A day or two later, Annie was discussing something she had written with a friend.  She then turned to me and said that she owed a lot to me, due to my essay inspiring her.  And she told me, outside of the class, how much she had liked that essay.  I must have smiled for at least a day.  I had hardly any self esteem to think of.  And I had just received praise from someone I respected,,,that was something that was not commonplace for me.   That’s just who Annie was.  She was genuine article, the rare piece of gold in a sea of pyrite.

I lost track of Annie after my sophomore year.  I went to a magnet school, then to college.    Eventually, we reconnected on Facebook.  I spoke to her via message and followed her posts.  Since we lived on opposite coasts, the chances of any kind of meet up were slim.  I took for granted, though, that there may be one some day, however slim, that we could have caught up with each other.  I would have loved to have caught up with her and heard about her life after 1995.  I also would have loved for her to see what I had become: finally comfortable in my own skin.  And confident.  Able to stand up for myself.  Someone who refused to back down, whether it be on fashion choices or world views.  In other words, I finally possessed those same qualities that she always seemed to have.

But I never got my chance.  We will never get a chance to catch up, nor can I ever tell her what her kindness meant to me.  I can never thank her for it, and tell her how she brightened up the day of someone whose days were not always the best back then.  She will never know what an inspiration she was, to me and probably several others.  After Annie passed away, the world lost just a little bit of brightness, but I think the next world gained a little more brightness.

RIP Annie Wright.  I was lucky to have known you and called you friend.  And the world was lucky to have you, even if your time here was way too short.




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