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The Legacy of Loss

February 21, 2020

The night air is cool, but the feeling on the patio is warm, cozy even. Gathered together in grief we are all, at once, comfortable and at ease. Twenty years may have passed since some of us have seen each other, but it doesn’t matter. Time, distance, and age are not obvious tonight. We are, as we have been hundreds of times before in years past, hanging out, teasing each other, laughing and telling stories. The only difference is, we are missing one of our number.

From the moment that Julia went missing the call to come together was both unspoken and resoundingly loud. It didn’t matter that we’d drifted apart as adults or that the years had changed us and we didn’t recognize each other at first sight. We rallied and marshaled our resources to do what we could, even if it didn’t get us what we wanted in the end, we were unfailing in our resolve. We felt Julia needed this from us, and we knew we needed this from us. This is how it is when you grow up in a small town. Even one that is world-famous and no longer resembles the outpost of our youth.  You come home and together however you can.

When the worst of all possible endings befell Julia, we reached first and foremost for each other. Knowing that we wouldn’t have to explain the anger, the loss, and the sorrow. We just knew we’d each get it. Explaining it to others would be harder because they didn’t know Julia, and they didn’t know us. They couldn’t fully understand. They would have questions that muddied our reality. The how and why of Julia’s disappearance and death are now just details in a sad story. It’s not who she was. Not to us. For us, it is the Julia we knew and what we do with the loss and her legacy that matters.

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We were friends before we understood that adulthood brings pretense. We knew and loved each other when we had greasy hair, acne, braces, gangly limbs and all the embarrassing awkwardness of puberty. Many of us didn’t realize until Julia disappeared, that this bond and these relationships, were something we’d been desperately missing. It is her inadvertent final gift to each of us. She has given us back our most formative friendships. It is our obligation to carry them forward as a tribute.

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