Back in the days when I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life (as if I do now), I spent two quarters in an MA program for counseling psychology. At this university, psychology was part of the college of education, so I had an assistantship working in the dean's office. During my time there, one student, who had a sizable fellowship, abruptly quit school. The dean decided that the remaining funds would be held until another time.
Until she met Lily.
Lily was a determined Ed.D. student who'd heard about the other student and decided that she would apply, unsolicited, for the remainder of the fellowship funds. She came into our office everyday, polite but firm, insisting that the funds would be well-invested in her, that she would graduate. She also sent a letter (that I read while filing, of course) pointing out her academic and work records and how determined she was to get this degree. Everyday, while I sat behind the desk, she sat in a chair and talked to me, waiting for a glimpse of the dean, eager to plead her case in person. "I'm going to get this," she'd tell me. "They might as well put that money to good use." We'd chat until the dean surfaced, at which time Lily would pounce upon her with enviable agility, her voice full of equal parts southern sweetness and resolve. She was a steel magnolia in action, confident, capable, proud.
She got that fellowship. And I left the college of education. Three years later, at the same ceremony in which my sister received her B.A., Lily got her Ed.D. Good, I thought, and let her slip from my mind.
Some time after that, I saw her at a restaurant. She hugged me and I teased her, "You put that money to good use." "Mm-hmm," she said, "But I don't know how good!" We were from the same parish and she was now teaching there--an experience I'd already had, so I knew exactly what she meant.
A few minutes ago, best friend Louisiana called, bringing what I thought would be a welcome respite from typing and deleting, typing and deleting. Earlier tonight, some of the parish teachers met at a local restaurant for dinner. Lily's sister, also a teacher, was there (Lily stopped teaching for the parish last year). Best friend's principal had called to tell her, not ten minutes after best friend left the dinner, Lily's sister got a call to pick up her mom and go to the hospital.
Lily had had a car accident.
Lily died, y'all. Lily. Three years older than I, determined, smart, funny, mother-to-a-small-child, wonderful Lily. Lily, who probably had short-term Christmas plans. Lily, who I know had long-term professional plans.
Lily, Lily, Lily