By Laura Moore

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We fill journals and scrapbooks with what we value. 

We write poetry and stories. We take photographs. We paint pictures. We run our hands through clay and pull it up and around our ideas. 

We carve and chisel. We bend lines in and out of thoughts, in and out of emotions, in and out of memories.

We create artifacts, things that capture the intangible, treasures that connect us to others, to feelings, to places we can no longer hold. 

These artifacts are gems, and each time I hold one in my hand, I feel connected to something bigger than myself. I feel reverence and admiration. I feel humbled and honored and moved.

For a long time, I assumed they were necessary if we wanted to immortalize anything, and I feared that whatever we didn't capture--whatever we didn't write about, photograph, draw, sculpt or paint--would eventually be lost, buried beneath the burden of displaced sand, beneath the weight of present moments, beneath the heavy pull of time.

But yesterday, as simple as it might sound, I realized that some things just live on. Some people can survive without paper, or clay, or canvas. I realized--quite jarringly--that the human spirit doesn't necessarily need to be drawn or painted or described within the context of any one thing in order to stay alive. 

When I logged on to my Facebook account last evening, I saw that one of my former teammates wrote a tribute to her cousin, Robyn, who had died from cancer seven years prior. I had never seen a picture of Robyn before, and I didn't know she was related to my former teammate, but the moment I saw her name on my screen, the moment I read of her ailment, the moment I revisited her story, I knew exactly who she was.

See, another friend of mine, a friend who entered my life six years ago, happened to be Robyn's best friend. And as she and I grew closer, I got to know Robyn--or at least the memory of Robyn--through her. My new friend frequently told me about her old friend, sharing stories that acquainted me with a kind, bright-eyed young lady filled with grace and courage, bursting with ambition, emanating with a spirit that always felt bigger than words. 

Despite the fact I have never met Robyn, despite the fact she and I never physically shared any sort of space in the world, I still felt connected to her. I still felt like I knew her. I still felt like she was someone who needed to be remembered, and because of that, I have remembered her. My ears perked up with each story my friend told. They perked up when my husband's best friend earned an award boasting her name. And they perked up yet again yesterday, when my former teammate, a teammate I never knew had any connection to her, mentioned her in a touching tribute.

And so last night as I connected the dots, as I recalled all of the pieces of Robyn that I had unknowingly carried through time, I realized how alive she really was in me even if our paths hadn't crossed, even if I hadn't seen anything written about her before, even if I hadn't seen--prior to last night--her face staring back through pixels on my screen. I realized how emblazoned her spirit was in this world. I realized there was something more to staying alive than finding a space in artifacts, in pictures, in things.

I realized that the spirit inside of us--the spirit we give to others--is what remains, what carries on, what lives. It is what immortalizes us, it is what enlivens the art we leave, the artifacts we give, the things we hold. It is what expresses the intangible, what makes a young woman whom I never met rise to the tip of my thoughts. It is what connects us to something more, what feeds us, what inspires us. It is what makes us ethereal and substantial. It is what keeps us alive regardless of whether or not our heart beats, regardless of whether or not time holds us still, regardless of whether or not we can lift our lips and smile.

Rest in peace Robyn.