Briana Thompson, a senior at Lawrence, passed away on Feb. 19. We invited members of the LU community who knew and loved Briana to share their memories here in order to honor the life she lived.
“Briana was a close friend of mine. She left us far too soon, but I am extremely grateful for the time that I got to spend with her and the memories we shared. Nothing I can say here can do her justice, but anyone who knew her knows that she was incredibly smart, unyieldingly motivated, filled with determination and passion (yet ever humble), and an absolutely wonderful friend. Briana was the type of person that would bring you food and coffee when she knew you were having a rough day. She would bring you on an adventure, small or large when you needed a break from it all. Not only that, but she was also fearless and fully ready to take on the world. Her passion was contagious, and I will never forget it.
Before she passed, she told me that she was going to do a stand-up comedy routine at an open mic night just before she graduated, both as a way to celebrate her growth over the past four years and to usher in the next chapter in her life. At first, I was taken aback. You certainly don’t hear that every day. Then, it hit me that – of anyone I know – she could do it, and she would be fantastic at it. She was hilarious! After hearing the news of her death and dealing with the initial shock, it hit me that she’ll never get the opportunity to share her humor with more of the world, and the grief I felt was only amplified. Now, I have come to realize that those who knew her can always go see her comedy routine just by remembering the moments we shared with her. Nothing can bring her back and losing her will be forever painful, but I do find a bit of comfort in knowing that Briana will always be with us – making the tough moments a little brighter, encouraging us when we feel ready to give up, and making us laugh when we feel down.
I’ve never met another Lawrentian whose light shone brighter, whose presence could be felt greater, and whose warmth could overpower even the coldest of days, more than I did with her. I miss you so much, Briana. Wherever you are now, I hope that you’re able to explore the vast cosmos up close, as you’ve always dreamed, and that Carl Sagan is there with you to show you around. Send us postcards if you find the time.” -Nicolas Magnuson
“Briana was a self-motivated, creative, and passionate individual who brought an immense amount of enthusiasm to everything she did. I really enjoyed working with her as a part of her Senior Experience work. She will be sorely missed.”-Brian Piasecki
“There is a bit of a story I have to share to give the context of my point of view. When I received the email of Briana’s passing, I felt a sad sense of recognition. Only upon further investigation did I realize where this feeling came from. I had recognized that name from my time during middle school and high school, way back when I was a kid going to Williams Bay High. I hadn’t even seen her in years, but after coming to this realization, the memories of listening to her play Bari Sax in jazz band during my freshman year of high school flooded my mind. I’ll admit, I never had a one-on-one interaction with her, but I felt it necessary to mention that Briana’s name was well known during her high school years. Even I, someone who considers themselves a very secluded person, was very well clued in to how passionate and talented Briana was. She was a core of our band, as small as it was, and she was well-beloved by every member. I still have a vivid memory of her and her friend, Hannah, playing a beautiful baritone sax duet for solo ensemble. I can easily contribute a portion of my love for music, bari sax in particular, to the beautiful sounds that Briana contributed to our band. She was one of our band director’s favorite students, not just because of her instrumental skill, but also because of how much light she brought to the band with her personality alone. He was heartbroken when he got the news, as he had always had faith that she would have a bright future ahead of her.
While I may not have known Briana Thompson personally, I can attest to the fact that her reputation, even in high school, preceded her. There was no one who was unaware of just how wonderful of a person she was. It goes to show just how much presence she had and how deeply we will mourn her loss.” –Owen Johnson
“Briana’s light burns brightly at Lawrence and in the hearts of all who knew and loved her. Briana found her purpose here, excelling in the classroom as well as through her photography and music. Our hearts ache, especially for her family. And, while nothing prepares us for such loss, we may find comfort in the work of Francis Weller, who writes: ‘[g]rief is akin to praise; it is how the soul recounts the depth to which someone has touched our lives.’ Let us celebrate Briana’s light and forever honor her memory.” -President Laurie Carter
“It is quite sad that Briana passed away. It appears that she was a great friend, and if I ever spoke with her family, I would try to support them through this to the best of my ability. I bet she had a strong future ahead of her, and I want her family to know how much she meant to the Lawrence community.” -Anonymous
“Briana and I were never super close, but I did share a few classes with her over the years. I was always impressed by her, particularly with her passion for optometry and how she was actively trying to achieve her goals instead of just longing for them. She always contributed interesting ideas to group discussions, and she was great about explaining concepts in a way that anyone could understand. What I’ll miss most, though, are the small waves and smiles that she would give me as I walked across Steitz while she was studying and I was heading to a class in Briggs. Such a friendly person who will be dearly missed.” -Anonymous
“Briana was one of the kindest, funniest, most genuine people I know. There was never a conversation or time spent with her that I walked away from without a smile or a feeling of warmness. She was always able to relate and she was there for me when I needed a friendly face or somebody to listen to problems that seem meaningless now. The hours we spent working together at the library would flow by, always talking and laughing and rarely doing homework because she was so easy to get along with. She brought out the best sides of people and I only remember feelings of joy, laughter and comfort with her. I’m grateful to have been with Briana enough times for them to have melded together, but I will always be wishing for more and holding onto the stories and memories that I do have. Nobody’s perfect, but she was damn well close as I’m realizing how rare it is to come across somebody so genuine who can spread so much happiness. Love you and miss you forever Briana, and we’ll take more green tea shots someday.” -Ellary Anderson
“I met Briana working with her at the library circulation desk. It was really easy to become friends with her, and we’d spend entire shifts talking about anything from our progress in practicing guitar to how Mitch Trubisky was looking as the Bears quarterback. She was the kind of person who was genuinely interested in anything that anyone had to say, and talking to her was effortless because she made everybody feel comfortable in their own skin. My favorite memories with her were driving around to nowhere in particular, switching off showing the other whatever new songs we’d been listening to. She always had a purely positive attitude, and I have never seen anybody who could mesh and gel with new people with such sincerity. Every single memory I have of her is positive, and I count myself lucky to have been her friend.” -Matthew Warren