Westhampton College '08
I'm the girl in the corner of the class room who is staring off into space. I'm the girl who looks blankly at the professor when called on. I'm the girl who didn't quite finish her first reading assignment of the year. I'm "that girl" not because I'm new to the college scene (I'm in fact a "super senior") or because I have ADD or am lazy. I'm that girl because two weeks ago, I lost a friend. Her name was Elizabeth Furlong* and she went to this school from 2004 to 2006 until she transferred to Temple University in Philadelphia. I got the news of Elizabeth's death when I arrived on campus on Sunday. I went to bed with the help of my good friend Tylenol PM that night and then spent Monday walking around campus in tears. I saw Elizabeth when I passed Tyler's Grill with her extra, extra large diet Coke; I saw Elizabeth at 8:15 at Boatwright with her sugar free vanilla nonfat latte with an extra shot of expresso. I saw Elizabeth in every student that passed me with the grey "Richmond" sweatshirt with Blue font that she wore all the time. I heard Elizabeth say, "Yoooo, that shit is gay" every time I saw some girl dressed head-to-toe in Lily Pulitzer.
I'm not too sure why I'm writing this piece, seeing as not many people are left on campus who ever met Elizabeth. The real reason I'm probably writing it is because she is all I have thought about this whole week and writing about her makes more sense than doing some reading for next week. I am also writing because it has been really hard to face the "How are you doing?" typical of the first weeks back at college. How am I doing? Well, to be honest, I've been a wreck for the past week because my best friend from freshman year just died. Yet, I somehow think that's inappropriate to say to the guy you worked on a group project with last fall and who you now sit next to in two classes. So, I'm doing my best at pretending "I'm fine! How are you?" but I didn't know it would be this hard.
In the few days since Elizabeth passed, I've learned a few things. And, instead of doing that ethics reading looming over my head, I'm going to share what I have learned. I remember reading a Plato quote one time: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." It's hard to explain how this relates to Elizabeth's passing, but the best I can do is say that this is my current battle and I am so grateful to the people who have been cautious and kind around me, as some know what I am facing, and others just sense it. It is a lesson I hope I continue to live in my own life.
The second thing I have learned is not to take your friends for granted, and when you think of calling someone, to pick up the phone. Freshman year, Elizabeth and I spent a lot of time together. We both had trouble adjusting to Richmond and we were great at making each other feel better by simply being there. We were the girls who avoided pastel polo shirts and wore sweatpants to class. Since we are a rare breed at Richmond, it was no wonder Elizabeth and I stuck together. After I took a year off for my sophomore year, I was able to see Elizabeth maybe three times and we would catch up via email or the phone every so often. When I was driving down to Virginia from Boston, I thought of Elizabeth and how I'd like to visit her in Philadelphia this semester. I reasoned that I would call her later in the week and see what she thought. That was the night she died.
Cherish the friends you have. Recognize a kindred spirit when they come into your life and don't let them slip away just because geography gets in the way. Try not to make judgments about the girl in French class in la-la land. While there is a good chance she might be a space case or just didn't get enough sleep, there is also the chance she lost someone she loves, she just had her heart broken or got rejected from grad school. There are a million types of battles that we are fighting every day; please recognize that while you might not be fighting one at the moment, chances are, someone else is.
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