Some great memories have Lauren in the foreground

Lauren and I met through a mutual friend of ours from Chicago. When she arrived in Manhattan Beach, where I lived, we became fast friends. At the time, I was recovering from a serious bout with Pneumonia. The sickness had left me a bit depressed. She was going through some life changes making us the perfect travel/hang-out duo.

After meeting, we immediately discussed politics and history. Normal stuff, right? 😂 She was passionate about certain things, like Cuba. These certain things she could describe in great detail which I enjoyed listening to for hours. We enjoyed debating certain points. I learned a from her responses.

She had a lot to say about several television shows, like Game of Thrones and Bob's Burgers. I know many people watch a lot of television shows—but not like Lauren. She could converse, debate and laugh about each episode of a show she watched in detail. I would watch shows just to connect the dots of the stories Lauren would tell about shows.

The first trip that she roped me into was from Chicago to Orlando in the dead of winter. I don't know why she asked me to go but we went. We left Chicago in a blizzard and I remember thinking, 'This is a horrible idea! Why am I doing this?'. We stopped in Memphis and listened to blues before heading further South—to the Gulf of Mexico.

I remember arriving to the Gulf of Mexico and asking if we could watch the sunset from the Gulf. We went to an old lighthouse. The water was so calm; much more calm than I ever see in the Pacific. Lauren walked to shore facing the sun as it set> She buckled her knees (as she would) and crossed her arms. She looked almost mad at first. Then she took in a deep breath and it seemed that her whole body melted in view. It was the best sunset. At that moment, I was so glad I was on that trip. After, I arriving in Orlando I assumed I wouldn't see her again. She had made plans to be a teacher abroad in Doha.

A few weeks later, she reached out with a request to drive to Big Sur—a place she had wanted to go to and a favorite place of mine. She came back to California and we drove up the coast staying in Santa Barbara, Monterey, and Morro Bay. It was a memorable trip. Lauren left to teach in Doha after.

Lauren and I would touch base after she moved to Doha—to reflect on our trips, what was up in our lives and reminisce a bit about fun times we'd had. She'd seemed well and that made me happy. I felt like we'd grown so much together. For myself, I'd learned how to live my life outside of who I'd been before Pneumonia. The new me was a bit more accepting of myself and I am thankful for what I learned from Lauren. I felt a stronger desire to just-enjoy-stuff and accept the people I care about for who the are ·and were.

I'll never forget Lauren for that and our trips. She will live on in my mind; appreciating sunsets—accepting a landscape so much that she seems to become a part of it, like that moment at the Gulf of Mexico. She will be missed. I'll always see a bit of her in every sunset I watch—its quite good-bye mixed with fiery light. I'll miss you Lauren Schlueter.

Lauren at the Gulf of Mexico