In addition to being her classmate at BYU, I was fortunate to get to work with Rachel during the last year of her life. My favorite moments include conversations held over lunch, in my office, and on the many walks to Chevron to buy junk food (generally peanut butter snickers for her and bear claws and Diet Coke for me). Usually we talked about something like Star Wars, orbital mechanics, Rick and Morty, the most efficient means of reducing energy consumption, computer games, politics, how to make cheese, the classifications of alcoholic beverages, how many laser pointers it would take to light up a new moon, and podcasts.
We also talked about her struggles with depression, relationships, feeling wanted, suffering, religion, being transgender, and autism. Rachel had some really bad days, but she was usually the smiling face posted here on the right.
One off the many things I found remarkable about her was her ability to make friends wherever she went. She has friends from all sorts of communities, work (across multiple departments), school, various religious and non-religious groups, Comicon, Ponicon, and Havencon, you name it. These are groups that don’t tend to have a lot in common, but she was welcome everywhere because of her generosity, her unfailing kindness, her intelligence, and that incredibly bright smile. Seriously, can you think of anyone that has a smile as infectious as Rachel’s?
I don’t have a great memory for what my wife calls “people things.” But some moments seem fresh no matter how long ago they occurred. One such was when Rachel and I got kicked out of two different city parks in the same night in an effort to do some planet-gazing with my new telescope. We gave up on parks and set up in the parking lot of his apartment complex. He told me about Kerbal Space Program (because he thought my daughter and I would enjoy playing it together) and what it was like living with Aspergers. I saw Jupiter through a telescope for the first time with her that night and it was as “spiritual” an experience as any I have ever had.
Rachel was a woman of many talents, from analysis and cheese making, to computer building and distilling her own gourmet spirits. Last night I went to visit her widow. She was giving Rachel memorabilia to friends and family and asked me if there was anything I wanted to help me remember her by. I was halfway through telling her about some fancy chocolate liqueur Rachel had given me to spice up my occasional White Russian, and she pulls from the fridge the last bottle of homemade eggnog Rachel ever made. She poured us each a glass and we toasted an exceptional life.
I don’t know if there’s a life after this one, let alone the meaning of it, but if there is, I hope she’s enjoying a pan galactic gargle blaster there. I miss my hoopy friend, she was a frood that really knew where her towel was.