be Thou my vision

So on the way to church on Sunday, I found my Ginny Owens cd (um…yeah…every CD choice in my car is a version of Russian roulette) and put it in and was startled by Be Thou My Vision. I love that song. I remember that when Mom and I got to Cori’s visitation from her parent’s house we sat in the car while this song played all the way through before we went in. When we got into the church, less than 15 minutes after the visitation started, the line was nearly to the door. What a testimony to Cori’s joy and personality. Her dad came out to meet me and he and I went to the casket together. I still remember how little I felt, holding her dad’s hand and passing the rest of the crowd walking towards the white casket. You know, you know that they’re not there, that they’re already dancing in the presence of the Lord, but a part of your heart is still so hopeful that when you get there they will rise up like the centurion’s daughter and ask for food, in Cori’s case, probably french fries. She wasn’t there. I still maintain that she never saw anything past my dorm room that night, and I firmly believe that the last thing she heard was my sleepy voice as I put my hand in hers as she rustled around restlessly, telling her that I loved her and that she should just relax, I was right there.

I know. It’s not November. Grief doesn’t pay attention to the calendar. Besides, today is Cori’s birthday, and I am remembering all the things that make me so glad that my dear friend was born, even though it’s been over three years since I’ve seen her. Last weekend, my parents and Laurel came to visit for church, and we had a long hilarious conversation about some of Cori’s classic moments, and it just really lifted to my heart. Our favorite is still the squirrel tale. When Cori and I were roommates freshman year, she came to visit my family over Spring Break. On the way to church, there was a farm where they were burning brush in a pile. As we pass it, my dad shakes his head and says “Man. Those squirrels.” Cori was confused. “What do you mean, Mr. K? What about the squirrels?” “They’re out causing problems, starting forest fires again,” Dad told her sadly. “Really?!” We all cracked up. No. Not really. Not even in the Midwest do squirrels suddenly start forest fires, but Cori was willing to believe…

And, because I always write about books, I thought I would write about some of the books that Cori made me read…(I said made, and I mean it with some of them. She was a force to be reckoned with.) These are the three that always spring to mind.

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. Cori sent this book to me my junior year, after she had transferred to PA. She sent her copy as my late birthday present, with the corners already loved on. She enclosed a note telling me that she wanted me to read it because she had read it in one horrified week, and she couldn’t tell if she had liked it or just felt numb. The message was, I don’t expect you to like it, but I want someone else to be as traumatized as I was. I read it in less than a week, even with 18 credits and three languages. This book is psychologically disturbing, starting out with the crime and who did it. Then Tartt (that cannot possibly be her real name) tells us the events leading up to the murder, and then tells us the inevitable fallout of it. It’s kind of a gothic sort of tale, even though it’s contemporary, and it has a lot to say about wanting to belong and how lies pull apart even the closest of relationships. I’ll say no more. You can look it up and probably find out more than I just told you. Oh. And it has to do with Classics majors…what could be better?

Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides. This one I read while at her parent’s house whichever year it was I visited on break. Maybe sophomore year? I don’t remember. It was one of the books on her bedside table, so while she read A Series of Unfortunate Events, I stumbled into the dark world of the sexually confused and gender ambiguous protagonist. This book was seriously weird. I mean, it has gotten national attention since then (I read it years before Oprah even had it as a twinkle in her book group’s eye, in my defense) and is well written, but I’m not entirely sure how I felt about it. Cori and I had good discussion about it, but I’m not sure I will ever love it. The identity crisis of the main character was understandable, but the backstory and the lack of resolution killed me. That didn’t stop me from finishing it in 3 days. That’s what staying in a house with a pool and hot tub will do to you.

The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon. This was the last book Cori ever sent me, shortly before that last visit of hers. It’s also her hand-me-down copy, even with parts underlined. This is a book from the point of view of an autistic boy, a trick that is being used more and more often in books, but was quite fresh at the time. It’s a mystery, and it’s about his relationship with his Dad. I found it sweet and well-written. I haven’t picked up any Mark Haddon books since then, but I hear his latest is also well-written, though with a totally different feel.

The mind reels, Cori. (This is the part where you say, The mind does reel, Coral.)

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