She died much too soon. Lauren Arnold was only 41 – Born and raised in Milwaukee, she moved to Phoenix and began a transgender journey of transformation from Lance to Lauren.

She lived as a pre-op female and donated time to a church that tended to gender-challenged teens trying to find their way. It was shortly after leaving “work” on May 17th when an apparently inebriated driver hit her traveling at 40 mph.

Lauren most likely would have died right then and there if it hadn’t been for the caring efforts of two trauma nurses who just happened to be driving by immediately after the accident. The two “angels” stabilized Lauren’s neck, opened her airway and kept her alive until she could be transported to the ICU of nearby Banner Hospital.

Lauren showed great progress in two weeks. She had two broken legs, two separate spinal injuries and severely bruised lungs. She found the strength to move her arm and acknowledge her brother Brent when he stood by her bedside.

However, infections set in and she had a stroke May 31st. All in all, the injuries were too much for this survivor. She was laid to rest back home in Milwaukee today (Monday, June 8th).

The funeral was well attended. Many family members and friends shaking their heads that she is actually gone.

As Lance, Lauren was a difficult person. He had some physical and emotional issues that demanded a lot of patience both from herself and those that knew her. I told her that I believed she was a much better person as Lauren than as Lance. She had more compassion for others and more patience.

She was my friend.

When she told me about her transgender journey and asked for my response, I answered honestly – as a white, heterosexual, married male – I didn’t know how to react. I ‘ve always thought of myself as open-minded…but Lauren’s journey was putting me to the test. I told her so. I also told her that she is my friend and that I’ll support her in any way I can.

She made inroads into the Phoenix-area transgender community. However, as often happened with my dear friend, she found ways to pollute many of her new friendships. As I said, she demanded people be most patient and understanding with her – some just couldn’t handle the work that was involved being friends with Lauren Arnold.

She always seemed to land on her feet. Ironically, she over-walked when she first got to Arizona and ended up in a hospital for a while. Her diabetes didn’t help the blood flow challenges in her sore feet.

She got out of “The Rock” as she referred to her rehab center and continued on her journey.

Just like at home where she found work at movie theatres, McDonalds and even as a blackjack dealer in a Milwaukee casino, Lauren found jobs in Arizona as well. She wasn’t one to hold on to her self-pity. She had it and then found ways to let it go.

She didn’t always know her boundaries and was probably too quick to trust others with her story. But I’m not sure if I’ve ever met a more honest person. She also was high-spirited and quick to be triggered to anger if she thought that you were making fun of her or putting her down for any reason.

All she was looking for was dignity and respect.

You know, that’s all most of us want out of each other and ourselves.

Many people wept today for the lost opportunities that no longer lay ahead to honor Lauren with their dignity and respect. She was an acquired taste and a challenging human being. But as I said, she was my friend and I’ll miss her dearly.

So why am I telling you all this? Because her life is full of lessons for those of us who still have ours. We can stop our quick rush to judgment over others who are different than us. We can stop holding grudges (justified or not) against family members, friends, neighbors, even former partners.

We can start living today with the same energy as we all wish to have on the final day of our lives. We can be our kindest self as often as possible. We can be willing to lend an empathetic ear to those in need of one – both friends and strangers alike.

We can live our lives so that we’ll have as few regrets as possible if one of our friends, loved ones, acquaintances, family members, etc. is taken all too soon from us – before we had a chance to tell them how much they mean to us.

For while tomorrow is promised to no one, today is full of possibilities.

Rest well my friend. Good-bye Lauren.