Most people who know me know that I lost my father in 2011 and some know about the passing of my great-grandma in 2007. But very few people, outside of my friends from Chapel Hill, know the other people I’ve lost. Today, I’ll touch on a pretty special young lady who I have nothing but fond memories of.
I remember in third grade or so, a young girl from Ukraine joined my class. Her name was Irina Yarmolenko but she went by Ira. She was pretty, sweet, and smart. An all-around genuine human being. Until recently, I didn’t know that her family had immigrated here as refugees but I probably didn’t completely understand what was going on in that part of the world at that time. To me, she was just a new student.
Over the next decade, Ira and I went to school together until we graduated from Chapel Hill High. We took everything from college prep to Advanced Placement courses together. At some point (probably during my girl-crazy middle school years), I recall having a crush on her but, when all was said and done, we just became really good friends. She was an amazing young lady.
I almost teared up when I came across her Facebook page today and decided to look through our friendship (or as much of it as Facebook could report, which unfortunately leaves out a large chunk). Ira and I had gotten into the same college, UNCC. I had also been accepted to NC State and UNCG. All three had great business programs but I went with UNCG because the female to male ratio was almost 3:1 at the time. Ira, who chose to go to UNCC, picked on me about that in some of her posts to my Facebook wall. Her teasing still makes me laugh.
In mid-2008, as her second year at UNCC came to a close, Ira passed away. NBC’s show “Dateline” did a segment on the mystery behind her death and I recall watching it, hoping an answer would surface. One never did. How it happened isn’t a concern of mine now. If there is justice to be served, it seems like it would be fair, conceptually. I just know that I’ll never run into my friend on Franklin Street again. She passed at 20 years old. I’m 30 as of this past December 3 and, while I cannot say we would’ve definitely still been close, sometimes it’s nice just to see what’s going on in an old friend’s life or grab a drink (now that we can legally). I would’ve loved to hear her verbose opposition to the current state of sociopolitical affairs in the state and nation that she came to call home. Thinking about it, she didn’t even get to see President Obama elected, nor will she see our first female president. She was a great artist and a great soul and, remembering her reminds me that I’ve only got one life to live and I have no clue as to when it will end. So I must live it knowing that every memory made isn’t just for me but also for those who will smile about the good times when I’m gone.
Don’t go a day without telling at least one person you love them and don’t let too long go without reaching out to an old friend. Live in love and let old feuds die.
Make living a life you love a priority.