The first time I met Lolly, she was laughing and yelling, “yee-haw” across the quad at New England College in Henniker, NH seventeen years ago. Twenty and carefree, with square toed boots and a cowgirl hat, Lolly strolled up to my table where I was helping to check in new students for orientation. I was quickly drawn to her humor, as she cracked jokes and worked to make everyone smile. She was loud and a bit clumsy, and drew her words out in a Texas drawl that added a sense of calm to her words. We were instant friends.
Aside from her personality that could light up a room, Lolly was a natural leader without ever recognizing it for herself. As her assigned orientation leader, I was blown away when Lolly and another student corralled the group and made everyone pledge to attend, to respect my time and that of the other presenters. She demonstrated maturity in her caring for others, and for how she felt people should be treated by the world at large. It has, for me, been one of her most endearing traits that continued to grow and blossom over time. Her compassion and empathy were remarkable, as was the generosity of her spirit. She was as giving as loving, and like her love, she gave freely and without condition.
During our time together at college, Lolly and I shared love, heartbreak, getting arrested, and a ton of laughter. She was always the bright shining star that drew everyone to her universe, and I felt so lucky to be part of that world.
Lolly’s struggles, though not as public, were a part of her greatest beauty. Living through the loss of her mother, Lolly gained strength of spirit where many might have collapsed. Whereas others might have closed themselves to love, Lolly became an open heart with an endless capacity for loving and giving. She adopted so many into her arms, and she saw the good in almost everyone. If you wounded her, she was forgiving, and rarely held a grudge.
The poet Rumi remarked: “Don’t grieve for me. Anything you lose comes round in another form.” I see the same resilience in her daughter, Lily, and it gives me great comfort to know that some of the best parts of Lolly will always remain with us through and in her.
Although we lost touch after I graduated, through the grace and good fortune of facebook, we reconnected. When Lolly and Lou were traveling to Denver, I asked her out to lunch, and she was happy to meet up and catch up on the past decade. As my husband and I walked into the Buckhorn, dressed in our black and gold, we spotted Lolly and Lou in the back in full Steelers gear. As she often joked, “it was love at first sight.”
If it weren’t for Lolly inviting us to Santa Fe, we might never have ventured into New Mexico. We came to visit from Denver during the week of Easter, and the second day we were in Santa Fe, she told me her friend Jennie wanted us to go on a walk. It was just a couple of miles through the desert, and it was a tradition to journey to the church with healing dirt in Chimayo. Not knowing better, or knowing Jennie yet, I got into the car and journeyed with Lolly, Jennie and Chelsea, walking over 11 miles through the freezing desert, my legs on fire by the end. It was one of the best nights of my life. We laughed, we shared, we support and encouraged each other, and five hours after we began, we entered the sanctuary, gathered dirt and ate mouth-watering tamales. For me, I had never felt at home with a group of women so fast in my life. During the beginning of the journey, we each focused on something in our life that we would be praying for during our walk, and selflessly, I remember Lolly praying for her sister’s adoption to come to fruition. After that night, I knew I had found my tribe. Santa Fe felt like home.
When we first moved here, Lolly and Lou met our moving truck with pizza, and helped us unload. That fall, when I found out we expecting, I asked Lolly if she would be our child’s godmother, she emphatically agreed. After we left Santa Fe for a short time and moved to Pittsburgh, Lolly visited us twice after the birth of my daughter. She helped Jennie cook dinners to freeze for my family, and took my husband to his first Steelers game. Despite my daughter’s reluctance to held by anyone but me, Lolly persisted, and as Lolly lie in bed toward the end of her life, my daughter comforted her godmother by holding her hand and curling close to cuddle. Although she is not here physically, I know that Lolly will be looking over her, as she will all those she knew and loved, and I could not have asked for a better, kinder, more generous or loving person for my daughter to look up to as she grows.
To have a friend like Lolly was a remarkable blessing and joy, and I cannot imagine how the hole in my heart she is leaving behind is ever going to close. When you know someone so full of heart and love, it is hard to imagine a moment when it might heal, because finding someone who can accept you for who you are and still love you completely is such a rarity in one’s lifetime.
Another quote by Rumi says: “This is how I would die into the love I have for you: as pieces of cloud dissolve in sunlight.” This is how I picture Lolly passing out of this world, into the New Mexican sunset she so loved and enjoyed, a part of its eternal beauty and grace. And every time the sky sets fire in orange and purple streaks, I will look to the heavens for my friend, and know that she surrounds me, and she is part of everything I touch and see, just as vivid as she was in life.
Reflections of a woman spawned in a cement cocoon...