On Easter Sunday, it will be 6 years since my friend Lisa Radtke was murdered.
Even now, it feels completely surreal to write that sentence. It seems unnatural and bizarre, and almost impossible to fully accept, but there it is.
What doesn't feel surreal or unnatural are my memories of Lisa when she was still here. That girl was so great. Have you ever met one of those people who had a genuine smile for everyone, even idiots? That was Lisa. I can still hear her laugh, and I will be so sad one day when that memory fades. She was wickedly funny, whip smart, creatively warped, and above all, one of the most kind-hearted people I have ever met. It's easy to hold people up in an artificial light after they pass away - it's only natural, I think, to focus on the best parts of a person in our memories. But Lisa was so young (23 and a couple of weeks from graduating), so full of brilliant, blinding potential, so alive. She loved this band. She loved being a born-again Christian. She loved everyone. She was a beautiful, vibrant person on our Earth, who had so much to give, and did so willingly and regularly, and she's gone.
We snickered our way through Urban Planning classes (my minor) and various clubs on campus, all of which I joined up solely because she was there. She just made life more fun. She had that special gift of making everybody around her feel better in that moment. And I can't tell you how much it sucks that she isn't here anymore, and for such a tragic reason.
It's especially poignant that the anniversary falls during National Mental Health week, because she was murdered by her mother, who was dealing with untreated mental illness. We used to talk about her issues with her mom, and I remember consoling her when she'd get a guilt-ridden email or voice mail from her while we were in class. She was confounded by how to love her mom enough to see her through the rough patches. I'm sure that's why she went home that weekend. It wasn't to wash her dirty laundry as much as it was to check on her mom. I have no idea how to even parse what would happen on that trip home, no idea (especially now, as a mother) how it could possibly come to that.
I feel conflicted when I read that people who loved Lisa are in touch with her mother in prison, but I know without a doubt that Lisa would approve. I don't know that I will ever sort this out fully in my mind, but I do know that I'm better for having known her, and I will always, always miss her.