Dear Sweet Lauren,
I am so very grateful for all that you brought into my life. From the day you came home from the hospital, you were sweet and curious. You constantly scanned the world, delighting in its wonder. When you were fussy, all we had to do was spin the chandelier, and you would gaze happily at it as long as it kept spinning. When you were two, Sara entered the world and you embraced her lovingly. You tried to include her in your activities. You “read” to her, shared your ice cream with her, (before Dad and I wanted her to have ice cream), showed her where to fid the Easter eggs, and gave her your less than perfect cut out of a butterfly. As you grew, your curiosity grew. You loved to explore the garden, play with Tigger, ride the lawn tractor with Dad, and create barnyard stories with your farm animal figurines. During the first 8 years of your life, we moved seven times, crisscrossing the country from Seattle to the Midwest and back again, and then up to Alaska. Picking up roots, leaving friends, going to different schools, would have been distressing for most children. For you it was an adventure. Even in Alaska, completely removed from all things familiar, you delighted in the cold by building snow caves, going ice fishing and taking your first ski lesson. Thank you Lauren, for your gifts of curiosity and adaptability.
In the late 1980’s we moved to Oregon. During your school years here your interests became clearer. You loved reading and read voraciously. By the time you were 10 or 12, you already knew more about European history than I will ever know. You also loved writing, and wrote exquisite stories of maidens and knights. Your imagination brought you to places so exciting and intriguing that you needed little else for entertainment. Thank you for sharing your creativity and imagination with us.
And then there were horses. You would play for hours with your Dreyer’s horses, dressing them up, racing them across the bedroom floor, and letting them take you to far away lands. When you were around 10 years old, you started taking riding lessons and going to horse camps. The word “homesick” never crossed your mind at camp. You were thrilled to ride through the wilderness and across open fields. Some of the most pleasurable times in your child life were spent learning to care for horses and competing in horse shows. Your love of horses filled your soul. Thank you, Lauren, for sharing your passion for horses.
Life was not all a happy fantasy though. As you became a teen, you not only had to deal with normal adolescent angst, you also had to contend with the disruption of the family, the need to earn good grades and money for college, and parents remarrying. These pressures would have sent many teens reeling. Instead, Lauren, you remained steadfast to your goals to be of support to all of us, to do well in school, and to prepare yourself for college. Innumerable times you put yourself second, turning down opportunities to go out with friends, because you felt so committed to being available for Dad, Sara, and I. For this steadfastness and` selflessness, I thank you.
Your college years gave you the opportunity to develop your interests further. On weekendsyou came home from college with wonderful stories of new friends and what you were learning in school. During college you were able to study in England, meet up with Aurelie in France, and travel throughout Europe. After college you pursued your passion for travel by working abroad. How I loved to get your emails describing your challenging work experiences, and the people you met from Australia, Scotland, South Africa, and many other countries. Your writing, like always, was full of life and appreciation for the many differences of people and places.
While you were working in Europe, I had the chance to join you. The week we spent traveling through France in early January one winter was one of the best travel week of my life. Because you knew France so well, you made all the travel arrangements for our side trips, negotiated with people in French, guided me through the maze of Paris subways, and brought us to the loveliest little villages in Britany. One of my fondest memories was the day we walked through the gardens of Versailles. It was a clear, cold, beautiful day. As we walked you explained the history of Marie Antoinette and King Louis the XVI. You not only knew their history, but you interwove it with the history of Europe at the time. I was awed by your knowledge and your ability to make history come alive. Thank you for sharing your day-to-day experiences while working abroad, and for sharing your wonderful knowledge of history.
After several months of working abroad, you returned to Portland. Working at the Northwest Reading Clinic, you interacted with children who struggled to read, and made many good friends. You were preparing for your GRE and applying to graduate school. Then the headaches came. The inexplicable dizziness. The difficulty finding the words you wanted to say. On Super Bowl Sunday, exactly four years ago, you were told by the emergency room doctor of your diagnosis. Your dad and I were horrified. You, however, took the news as if you had been told.you had a broken arm. Your attitude was, “OK, now I know why I have the headaches. Let’s fix them!”
In the months that followed you went through brain surgery and radiation. Then there was two years of chemotherapy. It was not easy. You were tired, dizzy, and unable to think clearly much of the time. But you never complained. You did whatever the doctors recommended with courage and determination. As you often said, you wanted to “kickbox this thing out of your head!”
After two years of treatment, you were blessed with remission. Joyously you applied yourself full time to your studies. You completed your course work, and during the summer of 2006, went to London to do research for your thesis. Also, during this year of remission, you met Sean and developed a loving relationship with a wonderful, giving man. Then last spring, the awful news came. A new growth appeared on your MRI. Hearing this news, you did not even flinch. You geared up for another battle. And so, these past eight months, you fought with all your strength and bravery against a growth that could not be slowed. Others would have moaned with self-pity and worried about the future. But you, Lauren, did not cry, did not feel sorry for yourself. You gracefully and courageously accepted what happening to your body. As your physical abilities ebbed away, your mind and spirit remained strong.
Watching you suffer was not easy Lauren. Although we did not want to believe it, we saw the things you dreamed of become less and less possible. Despite all of this, you worked diligently and optimistically with therapists, remained interested in the news, watched the history channel, listened eagerly as we read to you, laughed at small jokes, and said thank you for everything we did for you. When you could no long speak, you squeezed our hands to let us know what you were thinking. Lauren, thank you for your amazing determination and courage.
Although you did not say it Lauren, I sense that you lived to the end with the thought that “The whole idea of living is to believe the best is yet to be.”
Thank you Lauren for this final gift.