In Memoriam – Laura Fontanilla / AnoHana’s Menma and Her Letters

Cosplayer Larry Bear as Menma from AnoHana

Cosplay by Larry Bear. Character: Meiko “Menma” Honma. Series: あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない (We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day.)

Cosplay and tributes work well together when the context of the show relates so closely to what you are paying tribute to. AnoHana for short, this show touches upon the life of a group of friends who lost one of their own early on in their childhood. Inner thoughts and emotional dissections ensue, and we have a rather satisfying ending. Inspired by a true story? Possibly. Laura was a good friend for many years. And though we lost touch for nearly six of them, we were able to reconnect for two more before her untimely passing. This is an open letter about my thoughts on her young legacy from my viewpoint. May she find peace and comfort in knowing that she was loved and will always be remembered.


One day back in high school, my father invited me to go with him to his then-colleague’s house in Escondido to meet the family and make new friends with their children. That was when I first met Laura, still half-asleep and embarrassed by her parents’ excitement of having their daughter meet the son of a family friend, yet enthused and amused by our initial chemistry in everything from music to food. This fateful meeting preceded a plethora of family and family-friend gatherings, AOL Instant Messenger one-on-one and group chats with her and her cousins in tow, creative-but-clunky iframe websites, and a couple of high school formal outings here and there. Life was good. Gunbound fights were epic. Holiday gatherings of grilled turkey and a nearly burned-down place with Halo on the original XBox were accompanied by Laura’s swift, efficient lessons for me to learn To Zanarkand on the piano. We attended friends’ birthday celebrations and saw university dance teams battle each other.

Then, high school ended and we parted ways. University life kicked in, and the geographical distance we maintained grew even further when I moved to Fullerton to earn a degree. We rarely spoke for six years.


The springtime of youth, or the summer of love; take your pick, but one thing was certain: our experiences turned into bittersweet memories we would subtly cherish and, unbeknownst to us, reflect back on when we would see each other again after so long.

Laura continued on to higher education in her original hometown of San Marcos, met several new friends and faces along the way who would ultimately be touched and forever changed by her positivity, empathy, and authenticity. Having seen several photos and short videos at her memorial services, as well as what literally amounted to an entire novel’s worth of dedications by her friends and family really showed how much of an impact she had on everyone she met since we last saw spoke to each other.

A fateful phone call six years later for a casual, albeit comically blunt, request for my San Diego Comic-Con member ID amounted to a short reunion in the convention center’s busy exhibit hall aisles between two slightly older, slightly more weathered family friends who hadn’t seen each other in a very long time. It was beautifully short, nonchalant, and unsurprisingly joyous. She had been suffering from her medical condition for two years already since that time, and yet it felt as though nothing ever really changed for the worse. Call it a sign of toughness on her part if you will; I was barely able to tell she was even going through anything.


That’s all it took. One phone call and a message, and I was headed to what was otherwise a sold-out Comic-Con 2013, all thanks to Laura. It took two years of wondering why, of all people, she would reach out to me and help me get to where I wanted to go.

And then those feelings were tossed aside the moment I saw those photos and videos and. This certainly wasn’t special treatment; not some random act of kindness for an old family friend with an expired association. This was Laura being true to herself, timeless in her efforts, equally cherishing each connection she had because she knew how to best nurture them with innate effort and to any scale. And, quite possibly, she perhaps was holding onto the memories she held close to her heart for as long and tightly as she could. Because she knew her time was going to be up sooner than later.

The letters in the first image of this post that Menma wrote were in the hopes that her thoughts and feelings about her friends would reach them before her time came to move on. In Laura’s case, she would have had several dozens of letters to write for so many people whose lives she impacted. But if we reverse that concept and reflect on how this image was made, the image we created would be a visual letter of sorts back to her in the hopes that it would reach her. It would be a letter of eternal thanks for having met her, shared in both laughter and conflict, in achievements and shortcomings, in excitement and sadness. Menma tried so hard to be sure her feelings reached her friends across an entire anime season and movie. It only took the passing of Laura to see how unconditional her feelings were for all of us. And I hope that, somewhere in the great beyond, our feelings reach her and help guide her spirit to the eternal peace and happiness she deserves.

AnoHana Letters

Rest in peace, my dear friend. I love you and will always remember you.

Laura Jaye Munar Fontanilla
May 11, 1986 ~ June 1, 2015


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