They say there are multiple stages of grief. Seven, actually. The first are Shock & Denial, and then Pain & Guilt, followed by Anger & Bargaining, Depression/Reflection/Loneliness, and then the upward turn happens.

Waiting on that one right now. I truly cannot tell which stage I am currently in.

You see, I lost a friend today. She wasn’t a longtime friend, or a dearly close friend. I had known her only a few short months actually. So I kind of feel like I have very little right to my grief. As in “How dare I cry over this person when I knew so little about her?”

Well, I dare.

Laura Beth Botkin was a cast mate in my most recent show. She played the lead, actually. And as such, she suffered what I have come to call “Leading Lady Loneliness.” Although I don’t think she really was aware of it. She had this effervescent way of simply seeing good and being happy and just enjoying life while seeming to not notice any ugliness around her. She probably didn’t notice it.

Some people consider this a form of naivete–that childlike lack of self consciousness. The complete lack of awareness that the “adults” around you are giggling at your exposed little baby butt cheeks.

Add to that a highly trained and skilled level of musicianship and an outspoken personality, as well as what was likely a direct and personal request from the director to speak freely and be outspoken in rehearsals regarding note and rhythm learning…well, let’s just say that theatre egos can rarely stomach being told they are doing it wrong from ANYONE, much less the lead. Ever. I think mainly she ruffled some feathers and stepped on some toes early on and it is hard to come back from that.

But she was young, and smart, and well trained and had a great ear. And a big mouth.

This all adds up to a weird dynamic in the cast. No one argued her skill. Her vocal gift was clearly and excruciatingly obvious. She was just something of a know-it-all.

I liked her instantly. A lot. From the moment she told me my teeth were “so white” and that her hands smelled like cheese. I could see and understand the misgivings around me, but mostly I just smiled and nodded my understanding and in my best efforts at wisdom, kept my thoughts to myself.

Now she is gone. Everyone is shocked and upset and posting pictures and videos and how much they will miss her…

…and I believe them. I believe her too-soon departure reminded them that she was actually something very special. I believe they likely feel some guilt (complete waste of energy) about their words and behavior and wish they had opted for the better parts of themselves rather than the lesser parts.

But to err is human.

To forgive…

And the fact is: they all forgive her for her goody-two-shoes know-it-all crap. And I have no doubt that she couldn’t give any less of a fig about their silliness.

She knew her value. She owned it.

In fact, she taught me something of my own value. Hers was a talent that truly was awe inspiring. Her voice was lovely in the most real sense I can describe. And I am rather picky. And she was equally impressed with me–which meant so much more to me than the opinions of most.

Don’t get me wrong–any appreciation is humbling and, well, appreciated. But a colleague–that coveted peer-reviewed opinion–that is an award worth earning.

She also reminded me that it IS in fact possible to earn a living with the degree I hold. HA! What a lesson. She was doing it though. Full time vocal coaching was “really good money” she told me. huh. If her apartment, clothes and toys spoke for that, then yep, it sure was.

So yeah, we liked each other.

We had plans. We were gonna sing together again. We were gonna try to get shows together again. We were going to have coffee–or Kombucha (Trilogy was her fave GT flavor though she liked Kickin’ Kombucha too.) We were gonna make veggie Pho and talk about veganism and go shopping and double date and I was going to have something very rare in my world: a new friend.

Oddly, I feel two very distinct and different things about that: 1. I feel like I was robbed of a friendship that was going to be very important to me. And 2. I feel like I already had that friendship, and am therefore entitled to as much grief as my heart can hold for her loss. So I am filling it up tonight.

I wish to GOD I had known her longer, knew her family, knew her circle of close friend well enough to allow me to partake in that inner ring of shared loss. I wish I could warrant an item of memorabilia–a favorite scarf, a beloved score. I wish I had been important enough in her life to be asked to sing at the service or help pack up her things. As usual, being useful is how we women deal with our grief before we actually DEAL with our grief.

But mostly I wish she could have checked out the farm with me. I wish we could have had that coffee and Kombucha and hung out in her place listening to our favorite musical theatre stars and planning a shopping trip and a visit to Green Seed Vegan food truck. I wish we could have gone to FreePress Fest next summer together and ridden our bikes together.

I wish she had stuck around a little longer and I DAMN sure wish that asshole in the truck had called a damn cab instead of driving his hick ass home after too many Jack and cokes.

I guess I finally realized what stage I am in—it is definitely anger.



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One Response to Music, Egos, and Grief

  1. Lynnette says:

    Cortney – I am so thankful that I came across your blog. We lived down the street from the Runnels and our children grew up with their children. We weren’t fortunate enough to know Laura…our hearts are grieving for Jonathan’s loss. The more I’m finding out about Laura, the sadder I am becoming. What a bright light she was!

    I am also a counselor and you are right on target with your thoughts about grief. Anger towards the other driver is understandable and justified. May your heart become filled with peace as you go through this process.


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