A few weeks ago, the world experienced a great tragedy as a passenger plane was shot down over Ukraine.
On that plane were 298 people.
One of them was a friend of mine.
In memory of Karlijn, members of the Indiana University Rowing Team wrote letters to her family. To Karlijn.
As I wrote these words, my mind was flooded with wonderful memories of this amazing young woman.
We were Saturday morning girls, you and me.
We were last year’s rowing spandex shorts, regatta t-shirts and mud-marked sneakers.
We were conversationalists, 6-foot blondes that cruised around campus – past Sample Gates, Courthouse Square, and Assembly Hall, where our knotted shoulders and blistered hands were tended.
We were rowers, at some point, you far more than me. But I was just enough of a rower that our paths crossed.
It was an early autumn night when we first met – a grilled cheese and tomato soup dinner party I hosted, inviting friends to eat, talk, laugh.
When you walked through the door we weren’t officially friends, yet. After a few hours of passing plates of cheesy bread, it was clear that friendship was our only option.
We would go on to share other meals together, and things like pumpkin carving and coffee sipping. You were always game for anything. You were always willing to make the time.
Saturday mornings during my last year of school at Indiana became our regular scene, jogging around campus, talking about the past, the present, the uncertainty, but excitement, of the future.
You shared parts of your story with me, and I with you. You shared your trust and your grace. You shared memories that I am so grateful to know.
And as I got ready to head back to my Northwest home, you took the time to stop and say farewell.
You must have been busy – you were in the throws of chemistry research! You probably had many other friends who were vying for your time, too, as you were always one to be with people and make them feel valued.
But you asked me to meet. You asked me to join you at the table outside in the sunlight, to share one last cup of coffee and celebrate my final IU year.
You didn’t have to do that. But I am so thankful that you did.
And that is how I’ll remember you, Karlijn:
my friend who took the time to be present,
who didn’t let anxiety about tomorrow get the best of her, or any part of her,
who made me feel valued and worthy.
Thank you, my sweet friend, for sharing your light with me.
Thank you for sharing that light with so many others.
Know that we felt it, and that we still feel it.
You keep shining and you will continue to shine for years to come.
Because that’s just who you are and even death cannot defeat that.
Cheers, to you – the giver, the listener, my Saturday morning friend.
Love you and miss you so much,
This letter was included as part of a collection of memories from members of the Indiana University Rowing Team.