Letter from John

Reflections of a Step-Dad-by John Marandas:

I first met Lauren when she was but 15; yet, I vividly remember that she seemed very mature for her teen years. She was an excellent student, wrote extremely well and, like a sponge, soaked up what school had to offer.

She loved horses, liked to “work out”, run, ski, hike and was full of energy. Yet, she also seemed to “saunter” at times, as if deep in reflection or meditation-reflecting on the “why’s” or the “why-not’s”. As she grew into a young woman, one could see that her maturity was well beyond the norm-as was her intelligence and thirst for learning.

Whether it was during high school, college or post-graduate studies, Lauren was excited about virtually all of her courses-especially English History. She was one who couldn’t wait to communicate what she had learned each day. When one would ask while at the dinner table: “how was your day today?” Lauren would want to share-often in great detail-all that she had learned.

Lauren, for her age, was well-read and well-traveled. She spoke fluent French, having gone to France m any times as a teen, living a while with a French family, the Bertholliers-who became her family too. She had a special relationship with her French “sister”, Aurelie. Lauren and Aurelie would exchange visits to the other’s country in alternating years. Aurelie and her mother, Gisele, came to see Lauren this past November. That is how close they were-and are.

Lauren also traveled with her parents and step-parents to many lands. She traveled with her sister Sara and others, soaking in each country’s history and culture.

I had the privilege of following her “lead” on her travels to historic sites-that is how excited she was to see them. She would read all about them in advance, and be our tour guide telling us about their history. I first noticed this ability years ago when we went to Greece. It


intensified when she got a taste of the Minoan Palace of Knossos on the Island of Crete, and reached its pinnacle a couple of years ago in Spain at the Alhambra. A week of exploring historical sights in southern Spain was not enough for Lauren. She continued on her own, “escorting” Sara to Madrid and Toledo to see all the historical places she longed to see.

Lauren also traveled alone, and worked in Europe: She worked in Scotland as a waitress at a lodge in the Highlands at which Prince William and his friends would sometimes go. She also worked in Ireland caring for, and exercising a particular breed of horses which she described as the largest horses she had ever seen and ridden-and which thoroughly scared her because of their size, speed and difficulty in handling. She was also employed at a French chateau as a receptionist and maid.

Lauren went to Europe not only to see the sights, but also to study. She went to London and spent time in library catacombs, accessing books centuries old-all for her graduate thesis that could not be finished due to illness. She longed to teach at the college level, and aimed for a PHD.

Lauren and my mother, who was called YiaYia– grandmother quite the

called i v ia-in Greek-were ali dancers-even though YiaYia was in her mid-nineties and Lauren was in her twenties. They, along with some of the rest of us, would often dance ethnic Greek dances around the kitchen after dinner. Interestingly, it mostly occurred when it was time to do the dishes. Greek music, being somewhat peppy, was pretty good dish-washing music. However, it seemed that the choice between dancing and washing the dishes led to the inevitable-a preference for dancing. You guessed it, Lauren’s mom and I ended up doing the dishes, mostly with YiaYia’s help-and Lauren went off to study.

What I remember most about Lauren was her allegiance-to both of her parents and to her


sister. Notwithstanding the division of her birth family during her formative years, . she bore no anger nor animosity. Her step-brothers and step-sisters became “brothers” and “sisters” to her.

What she was and. is, was molded by those around her. So, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and each person who was a friend, co-worker and acquaintance helped mold her into what she became. Condolences from near and far are all testaments to Lauren. Sean’s presence and their mutual love for one another to the end also speaks well of each.

One would think that I am speaking of someone not of the tender age of 28-but, someone of advanced years. That also speaks loudly.

Christians believe that Christ died and was resurrected in order to save us, and to show us the way to everlasting life. Thus, although we have gathered here today at a “Celebration of Life” for Lauren, one should believe that her recent death was merely the end of her earthly existence, during which period we have come to know her. We should also recognize that we are also here to celebrate the new phase of her life in the “hereafter”-the most important chapter of life’s journey.

While on earth she showed us how one can live and die-with dignity and grace-without

blame, anger or hostility toward others s or toward God. 1 V the th of – or yr aG contrary, lllste[LU. Ul being angry at

God or Christ, she embraced Him, and left us-whether she knew it or not- as an example of how one’s life can have meaning. She set a standard for us-so she could be emulated as one transitions from the earthly life to the hereafter. I believe Laure n ‘ s purpose here on earth was, in part, to act as a beacon and guide for us.

I look forward to seeing Lauren again, at which time I know she will want to tell me all about what she has learned since the moment she left us, after which we can dance again. —And, best of all, we can dance with YiaYia and grandma Myrtle too, and without worrying about washing the earthly. dishes.