Originally published January 17, 2009
This seems to be a season of loss. We face daily headlines about the loss of jobs, the plummeting economy, major retail chains going under, financial institutions in crisis, housing values declining. It’s hard to look at the newspaper without feeling some sense of loss. Sometimes that loss takes on a very personal nature. Sometimes it’s the loss of a friend that makes you take pause to reflect and remember.
Yesterday I visited Long Beach City College’s west campus for a memorial event honoring an amazing faculty member who died far too soon. Just 40 years old, she had taught at the college for 10 years, but her impact went far beyond the classroom. That was evident in the celebration of her life that took place on campus Friday. Tears were shed, but there were just as many smiles and even more laughter and song as students, faculty, staff, friends, and family members gathered to honor her life.
This event held special significance for me. Shannon Quigley Runningbear and I had known each other for well over 20 years. We met in college, worked together, played together, hung together, and grew up a little bit together before I graduated and moved to Massachusetts for graduate school in 1990. Over the nearly two decades since, we had stayed in contact, sometimes sporadically and sometimes regularly. We had seen each other just a handful of times, as distance and life kept us in different places. However, whenever we got back together, or even talked on the phone or exchanged letters or e-mails, it was as if we were right back in college sharing our innermost thoughts and feelings all over again. We had just text messaged each other on Christmas Day, and on January 4 she was gone. Continue reading