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  • Writer's pictureJennifer O'Toole

Something Beautiful Out of Something Broken: Kindred Spirit Friends

Life changes when you first discover a person who loves you for you, and simply won’t allow you to drift away because she thinks you matter and are of value now. You may never agree with her. You may think she was, quite literally, “seeing things” instead of seeing you. But you’d be wrong.

Which is why no friend was ever more precious than my Lori...something I shared with the world in an #Asperkids #blog post six years ago...and again in #AutismInHeels this year.

May 15, 2013

My best friend, Lori, and I were sorority sisters in #KappaAlphaTheta—but more than that, as two precocious only children, we became the real sister the other had never had. And in our seventeen years of #friendship, I learned that I didn’t have to be impressive all the time to make an impression, that real friends can disagree deeply and in the open without fear of reprisal, that sometimes your girlfriends are the only people you can call with those really personal questions, and that being silent next to someone you love speaks more than a thousand Hallmark cards.

In short . . . I guess you could say we grew up together.

A week before my senior year in #college, I left a physically and psychologically abusive relationship. Typically me, I tried to seem “together” even when my mind was crashing in . . . Lori wasn’t fooled. She, alone, drove hours to be by my side. There was no #blame or expectation—only presence. And so, she taught me that I was worthy of the #love of a friend even if I wasn’t chipper and happy and bubbly. I could be human—I could even be a freaked-out emotional wreck—and she still saw me as “brilliant,” “courageous,” and “wonderful.” Words I never would’ve used to describe myself, if speaking honestly.

We had boyfriends and broken hearts. We earned diplomas. We moved out. We became #women. We became mothers. We talked about breast pumps and houses suddenly filled with trucks and trains. We juggled careers and kids and guilt. She sat next to me at my father’s wake. I held her firstborn son when he was less than two weeks old.

When I graduated from #BrownUniversity, Lori gave me a #mirror she had framed herself—a mosaic of pottery shards in pinks and golds and greens and white. The truly ironic thing was that I, too, had made her a “memory mirror” . . . except mine was really ugly. Lori’s was gorgeous.

And then she said, “For my friend, Jen, who has made #SomethingBeautifulOutOfSomethingBroken.”

I hung that mirror in my daughter’s bedroom before she was even born—and it’s now in my stairwell, so that we each look in it before we face the world each day. Because “Aunt Lori,” as she is known to my children, made it. “And Aunt Lori is really smart.”

Except she was wrong about one thing.

It was Lori who made something beautiful out of the broken pieces. Her name is in the acknowledgment of every Asperkids book for a reason. She held up a mirror and let me see that I was #beautiful—not in spite of my jagged edges or chips and cracks, but because of them.

For two years, she battled a largely private war against aggressive breast cancer—and I consider it a privilege that I was allowed to be one of the very few people who knew what was really happening. Tonight, she left us. For many people, it’s news they never saw coming. For me, it’s news I’ve been expecting, but willing not to happen.

Folks on the #spectrum don’t need lots of friends. It’s a quality not quantity thing. Lori was—and is—my #KindredSpirit and the closest thing I will ever have to a #sister. I will look in that mirror every day for the rest of my life. I will see the wrinkles come and be grateful for the time that brings them.

With every new morning that passes, I will look into that reflection and say, “Today, I will make something beautiful out of something broken.”

Because in a very chipped, cracked, mismatched, and imperfect me, Lori already did.

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