Today is Lawrence’s birthday. Or would be, if he were still here. Unfortunately, I lost my friend in 1980. He was killed by a man who wanted to steal the car he was selling. Which was horrible. But considering Lawrence Foster was a 26 year old world-renowned cellist, a man whose hands were insured for $1 million, it made it even worse.
Lawrence was discovered at age 11 by Leonard Bernstein. He was an amazing musician, earning accolades throughout his short life. But I knew him as the crazy guy who lived with my friend Brad. We lived in London, England; Brad was one of my high school classmates. I don’t know how Lawrence ended up living with them; I don’t even remember how I first met him. I do remember that I had a crush on him, although he was years older. He was cute and funny and took time to hang out with us, when he was in town.
I learned to appreciate the cello by listening to him play. I would close my eyes, and let his music take me to another place. He closed his eyes when he played, and you felt like you were intruding on something intensely personal when you watched. He was simply amazing.
He was also crazy. He used to ride his bicycle through the streets of London, drafting behind double-decker buses. I remember the night a bunch of us were out and about, and my friend Hope borrowed his bike – and promptly disappeared. Lawrence searched for hours with us, as worried as we were, blaming himself, until we found her safe at a police station.
He came and went. I never knew when I’d see him again. But my heart would beat a little faster when his blond head and wide smile popped back into my life. Thinking of him still makes me smile.
Then I came back to the States for college, and we lost touch. I kept track of him from afar, as I could, but that was pre-Internet, so I had to rely on newspaper stories, which were few and far between. But friends reported that he had gotten married, and moved to Georgia. I was glad that he seemed to be creating a normal life for himself, and looked forward to the day I would be hear him play at a fancy concert hall, and I could go backstage afterwards and give him a big hug, because the star was my friend.
My senior year, I came home for Christmas break, I believe. When I arrived, my mother gave me a newspaper article that my father had found. It was a story from Lawrence’s mother, and explained that he had been murdered by a man who wanted to steal the car Lawrence was trying to sell him. She had written the article because he had friends all over the world, and she wanted them to know he was gone. I was stunned, and remember walking around in a daze for much of that vacation. Even though I hadn’t seen him for a while, I always knew I’d see him again. I was happy to know that he was out there somewhere, making beautiful music.
Thanks to the Internet, there are a few items online about Lawrence, and his short life. It’s nice to read them, and remember my friend. But I always remember him on January 11 – on his birthday. He would have been 59 today.
One of the articles says that he would have most likely been a star on the level of Yo-Yo Ma, had he lived. He was a star to us. And hopefully, he’s up there somewhere among the stars, playing his cello. And drafting behind a comet.
Happy birthday, Lawrence. As long as we remain in the hearts and memories of our friends, we live on. I will always miss you.