Her Name Was Lori

My high school days were pretty average.  I was pretty average.  I wasn’t popular.  But I wasn’t not popular.  I had good friends.  I had good moments,  and I had angst filled teen-age moments.  Sometimes I felt way too old for school.  Like I belonged in another time.  An older time.  Older-than-what-I-was-time.

Other times I felt just like a teen should feel.

There are few things that I remember from high school with clarity.

One of the things I remember is actually not a thing, but a person.  Her name was Lori.  I didn’t know Lori well.  I only remember sitting in maybe a class or two with her.  One class for sure.   The one class I recall sitting in with her was “Death and Dying”.   I remember it because Lori was sick.  She had cancer, and though my recollection could be wrong, I believe it was leukemia.

Where I grew up we went to grade school.  Grades one through eight.  Then we went to high school.  Grades nine through twelve.  I went to Catholic schools throughout my childhood.  Our grade school was a ‘feeder’ school to one of the local Catholic high schools.  Most kids in my grade school also went to the same high school.  But there were many other ‘feeder’ schools.   So high school opened up the world to include different people.   And I haven’t gotten any better at this point in my life as I was back then with names, faces and recall.  It took me eight years of schooling to remember the thirty to fifty kids I went to school with in grade school.  High school was not going to be, and proved not to be, easy for me with names and faces.  I think I hid it pretty well.   But it was a struggle.

So going in to high school there were a lot of people I did not have close connections to.   Lori was from another ‘feeder’ school.  And though I can look through my year book and smile at the familiar faces, I would be hard pressed to name even fifty percent of them.

But Lori, I remember.

And I didn’t even know her.

I knew as we sat in the class “Death and Dying” that she was sick.  I likely did not know how sick she was.  Though she was thin.  And the cancer appeared to make her extremely tired.  The effects of the cancer were evident on her youth.  She seemed to have a good group of friends devoted to her.  I remember hearing stories about Tony, and how wonderful he was to her.  I even heard, more than once, of how he would carry her if she was tired.   I didn’t see this.  But I believed it to be true.   I just believed in all of the goodness.  I still do.

During the semester we had class together I didn’t get to know her any better.  I remember being aware of her presence.  If I remember correctly this young man named Tony may have been in the same class with us.  I remember speaking to her, with her.  But no friendship developed.   I was too shy to be gregarious or outgoing.  I lacked any confidence what so ever in thinking anyone would want to get to know me.  As a class we seemed comfortable enough within that room.  We had a book to read.  We had discussions.  I was probably average in that class as well.

Lori’s presence to me was more felt than experienced.  And I became acutely aware of this presence.

If she was in the hallway I noticed her.

If she was in a room I walked into I noticed her.

But that’s all.   That is pretty much the depth of our interactions and knowledge of one another.

One day while sitting in class it was announced to us that Lori had died.

I had never really experienced death before.  No family members in my memory had died.  No one I had known to that point in my life had died.

At this time in my life I carried a notebook with me every where.  I wrote all the time.   I wasn’t any good.  I just felt a need to write.  And I did.  Sometimes in class when I should have been paying attention.   Which may attribute to my average-ness in my schooling.  I wrote to say things I couldn’t say.  To address things I couldn’t address.  To hide things I didn’t want to carry inside of me.  I wrote to have a pulse.  But I never, ever, wrote about God.  I didn’t understand the religion classes, I didn’t have a grasp on faith or belief.  I was told what to believe.  And looking back I believe with all of my heart that I was (certainly not now….) oppositional defiant.  I was told what to believe and what to think.  And my free thinking moments would not allow me to fill it with what I was told to believe and think.  

I sat in a room full of children, because we were very much children at that moment.  I didn’t know what to feel.  I even felt a little bit intrusive sitting in a room full of people, many of whom knew her much better than I.  It might be accurate to say I didn’t feel I had a right to feel grief.  But I felt so very sad.  So…incredibly…sad.   Like I had never felt before.

I sat at my school desk and opened my notebook and wrote.  Without thinking.  Without contemplating.  I just wrote.


Take her in your arms,

And hold her close for us,

Let us see her smile,

In your warm sunny rays.

Give her God,

The love that she always had with us,

Let her see us

And feel how we care.

Let her be happy God

And give her eternal peace.

Tell her we love her God,

And she is in our hearts,

Our memories,

And in our prayers.

I must have shown it to one of my friends.  Who must have copied it.  And took it to someone.  I was called at home that evening by one of the nuns, a teacher.  They wanted to print what I wrote and give it to the rest of the students.   She asked my permission.  I told her yes.  She asked if she could change “God” to “Father”.  I said yes.  And I took out my notebook and wrote “Father” in the places where they were going to change it from how I wrote it.

I knew so very little about Lori.   And it was difficult to watch others around me who were so connected to her go through something so difficult.  And feel unconnected to it.  To her.  To them.

Our class was given the day of her funeral off.  I didn’t know it but some of my other friends came to my house to get me to take me to the funeral.  I was up in my attic bedroom and didn’t hear them at the door.  I didn’t go.

I have thought about her often throughout the years.  One day, I sat in my old high school gym for my youngest sister’s graduation.  I heard Lori’s last name and looked to see if there was a student with the last name on the program.  There was.  After the ceremony I asked my sister if she knew the young man and she said yes.  She wasn’t sure if it was Lori’s brother or not.  But she helped me find him.  I told him who I was.  Lori and I would have graduated together ten years earlier, if she had lived to our graduation.   I am sure I surprised him but I told him I just wanted to say hello and tell him that I thought about his sister often.  I guess I just wanted him to know she was thought of.  He was gracious.  Kind.  And I thanked him for talking to me.

Normally I think of Lori privately.  I don’t have any real memories to share with anyone.  But I like to think of her.  Remember her.

Today I told a friend about her.

And I’ve been thinking about her.

And I guess I just wanted to tell someone that I’ve been thinking about her.

I guess I would want her to know that she is remembered.

And now I feel comfortable in my own beliefs, my own faith, to ask God that he let her know these things.


 The original.

For Lori.

56 thoughts on “Her Name Was Lori

    • Thank you Cindy. I remember sitting in that class and writing it. I was physically writing it, but it was the first time in my life (though not the last) that I felt like something else was writing through me. I agree, it was my faith. I did not have to think about it. It just happened.


  1. I totally know where you are coming from. What a wonderful, wonderful post to remember an individual. We are all so very important – and just because we have not all me does not give us any less permission to experience empathy. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that you were writing even in high school. I would have loved to have had you in my class — the ODD (which I can’t see) with oodles of talent waiting to be uncovered. I, too, in reading your post, thought about Lori. She came to life for me. What a gift you have given to her family, her legacy, her memory. Bravo.


    • We are all important aren’t we! Thank you Stacey. I was a little surprised when I started writing this how strongly the feelings all came back.

      I’m glad that others have brought her memory forward. People who don’t know her may now think and wonder about her. Add’s life to her life. If that makes sense.

      Thank you Stacey.

      ( You’ll have to trust me on the ODD. It’s not diagnose-able but it is there.)


  2. A wonderful memorial. I remember there was a girl in high school with was dying of the same thing. I didn’t know her only of her. Her name was Andrea and I think of her from time to time as well. I remember being really sad when she died. She was to young and loved life.


  3. I really felt like you knew Lori better than you thought you did. I liked how you kept her in your lens, your sight, through the passages in the halls and classes. It would be hard to lose someone in your class, while you were that age. I felt horrible, when my children each lost someone from their high school, along with the boy I used to babysit. The way you went up to Lori’s brother, that did take you out of your comfort zone, but it felt good to tell him. I could feel your emotions, every step of the way. Thanks for sharing Lori’s poem, one you wrote for your own eyes, but agreed to let others read it. This was thoughtful of you, Colleen, since it was an amazing poem.


  4. Your writing for Lori was beautiful as it, Colleen, better with God than Father, I think. But I do not come to pick at little nits.

    I come to say it is wonderful how you had these thoughts pour out of you then for a girl in your class that affected you in ways that only the writer you understood. And writer you still has to recognize what she meant to you, more and more. That was awesome to talk to her younger brother 10 years later. And to put the original copy of your words here now, with your further words that explain even more the depth of your feeling that day and this day. I clicked on the photo and looked closely and felt the bond, my friend. Goose bumps.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Mark. I’m glad Lori has that impact. I reflect on going up to her brother. At that time in my life I don’t know what gave me the thought and the action ability to do it. I’m glad I did. I remember telling him I just wanted him to know she was thought about and remembered.

      Thank you for sharing this with me. With Lori.


  5. Thanks for serving us such a hearty meal tonight. I ingested your words, your love for Lori, and now, I am full too. You’re truly craftsman of words, Colleen!


    • Thank you Anka. How incredible of you to say. I’m glad you feel Lori’s existence. 🙂 That makes me happy, and I hope there is a wave of love washing over her family, where ever they may be. And they feel this in their hearts some how.


    • Thank you Koji, for the tears. They weren’t because of what I wrote….but for Lori. That’s my suspicion any way. 🙂 I guess it’s presumptuous of m to tell you what your tears were about! My apologies for that.

      Thank you.


  6. Colleen,
    I think of Lori too. I did not know her well but I remember
    Seeing her in assemblies. Sometimes at Mass I remember
    To pray for her. Now I will remember more often.
    Thank you for your blog and the beautiful prayer!
    I read your blog a lot just don’t always comment.
    Your words move me, make me smile, laugh, cry,
    feel motivated and make me think.
    Peace be with you🌸


    • Thank you Mary, and no worries. I always know you are out there. 🙂 I’m grateful you share your emotions with me.

      I’m so grateful for those who remember with me. It makes me feel like I was a little bit more a part of our BWHS world than what I felt at the time (which had nothing to do with BWHS). I would hope to live my life in a manner that makes my memory feel to others. like Lori’s feels to me. Though I did not ‘know’ her, I was very aware of her.


  7. This is deep, so many times we are around people going through something tough, we want to get close to them but we assume tomorrow will be there for us to comfort them, at times tomorrow never comes. May Lori keep resting in peace


  8. You wrote this a long time ago Colleen. But on clicking on one of your more recent posts, related ones came up – as they do. Some of the titles i terested me. So I have been deading a few of your earlier posts. This one made me cry. But it is beautiful. So beautiful. I can’t say any more than that. I guess the death and dying bit got to me. But Lori was so you g. So sad. And strangely, my husband calls me Lori. Never ever Lorraine. I relate to Lori’s tiredness. Mine is a blood cancer too. Anyway, this is not about me. It just seemed odd that I should read this one. I have lived reading it. Thankyou for this beautiful post Colleen.


    • You are welcome Lorraine. I’m so glad that in some small way I keep Lori’s memory alive. She will be gone nearly 40 years, I barely knew her, but I think of her often. Thank you for letting me know how this impacted you, that really is important to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are so welcome. It was a privilege to read about her. We had a boy in our school who was always very very sick, but not cancer. He was always very very pale and we knew he was very sick. His was asthma, though I think there must have been other things wrong too. He died on the bus on the way to school one day. You remember those kinds of things. I never really knew him, but I felt for him so much, being so sick. I hope you don’t mind my reading some of your earlier posts. They are so good, and the way in which you write is lively.


        • I do not mind at all! Read as much as you like! 🙂 . I’m so sorry for that little boy, and for all of you who felt that loss. Even not knowing him well doesn’t mean you didn’t hurt for him.


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