“Maurice, when I first met you, I thought you were an arrogant bastard. And you are. I never thought we would love each other or become the friends we have. I’m not fooled because now I know your arrogance covers up your insecurities. Thank you for letting me see that.”
Sara shared that with me during one of our hospital chats when I was finding her hand. We were doing what we always do: we laughed, we cried, we got all into each other’s business, and we let each other know how much we loved each other. I’m sure no one else who has ever called Sara Larson a friend had that sort of relationship with her. Just like I’m sure none of her friends knew her as a Mama Bear quick to fight for her cubs … since we’re all her cubs.
Even when death is expected, even anticipated, there’s no preparing for the conflicting emotions that hit you. The sense of relief that your friend is no longer suffering mixed with the grieving of the moments you won’t be able to share, the life lived without them. And how difficult, how unreal, it is to accept. Here’s the sad truth about death: sometimes it takes the threat, the grim reality that it has us in its sights, for us to live the way we’re supposed to live. Sara had the reality of her mortality put up in neon lights on billboards for months. While she was confined to her hospital bed, she was able to receive the fruits of a life well-lived. She got to see how many lives she touched. Day after day, her room was filled with friends and family there to visit her, be with her, and love her.
Sara once confessed that she had always dreamed of a life surrounded by interesting people. People who wrote books. People who made music. People who painted. People who said witty things. She was honored to have been blessed with the family and friends she had. She wanted all of her friends to know that. And if we’ve lived and loved as we should, she knew how we felt about her. She lived life loud, full of bright color, full of song, and shared that noise, color, and music with the world.
When I think about the Sara I knew, the memory which sticks out most to me was after Mo*Con II. I had been running around the whole weekend, worrying and working myself into exhaustion. On the last day she came up to me, held her arms open, and said “It’s okay to show that you can’t do it all on your own. I got you.” It was like strings had been cut and I collapsed into her arms. And she just held me and did her Sara thing. To me, that’s Sara in one picture: there to catch us when we’re ready to fall and hold us up until we’re ready to walk on our own again.
Part of her Sara thing is that she regrets that she won’t be able to still be in relationship with us. You see, she still plays the Mama Bear, worrying about who will take care of her cubs, or worse, upset that she will cause us pain when she leaves. All I can think of is that I worship a God of relationships. Through His Son, all relationships are eternal. So you know what? I’m thankful for the pain of our loss because it meant that He brought us together in the first place. Just like I know everyone gathered in her hospital room would gladly take on the pain of her loss because it meant that we knew her. It meant we loved her. It meant she touched us. And she doesn’t get to just leave us. I know she’s watching us, continuing to cheer us on. And I live in the hope that one day we’ll be reunited.
“We’re stupid. Why did we have to wait so long to become such good friends? Did I mention we’re stupid?” –Sara Larson
I can only hint of the complicated relationship we shared. Even as I write, the only way I know to process what I’m feeling, I know there’s a distance. A level of grief I don’t want to face because I think it will be too much and I’m not going to want to even get out of bed, much less do anything else. But I can almost hear Sara yelling at me to not be afraid to feel and live … and to get my ass out of bed.
You see, we argued (loudly). We got mad (loudly). We cried (loudly). We laughed (loudly). We lived (loudly). We loved (loudly). She was my sister and I was her brother. One thing we say often is that friends are the family you choose. And because I chose Sara as family, I have a Sara-sized hole in my life … and I thank her for it. Sara, I thank you for loving us artists and encouraging the color we bring to the world. I thank you for loving us music makers and joining us in the noise we make. I thank you for loving us writers, as you pushed us in our various journeys. And I thank you for loving us arrogant bastards.
Awarded to Sara in the picture above: Words cannot express the depth of which this lady means to us. She is dedicated, resourceful, and opinionated…and she is a fighter, through and through. She inspires us, tasks us, and often times mothers us. She showers us with love and devotion and our appreciation of this woman knows no bounds. To Sara J. Larson, the heart and soul of the Indiana Horror Writers. (Bob Freeman)