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 Category:  Biographical Non-Fiction
  Posted: August 11, 2018      Views: 67

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I need to admire you, before I can respect you. Fortunately, I'm easy to impress,

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"Special People and Moments in Time" by Spiritual Echo

On reflection, I think I lived in denial, not believing in the finite time we call life. I brushed shoulders with death, attending the rituals of funerals and responding to the loss of my grandparents with a public display of tears and social graces. Rational thought allowed me to accept their passing as the rational order of life. They were old. In my mind, they'd always been old. I never knew them as individuals, only as accessories to my life.

Between then and now, I've buried my parents, friends and held my husband as he died in my arms. The business of death, the overwhelming responsibility to liquidate property, choose caskets and arranging services while all the while offering comfort to mourners who imagined their grief greater than mine, took a toll.

For a long time, it seemed so pointless. Every pet that passed deepened my despair. Dear friends tired of my company, and they were justified in rejecting my gloominess for the joy of living. "You've changed. You're not any fun anymore." I didn't disagree.

When I couldn't stand myself any longer, I took inventory and changed my life radically. I sold my house and moved to be near my son and grandchildren. I needed to be tethered to people who loved me.

One hundred miles, still within commuting distance between my new home and my job, meant far more than shaking off superficial acquaintances, it also meant a change of lifestyle from big city living and small town culture. My career acted as a diversion, but renovating the house consumed my attention. It was gratifying to have a project and see the transformation of a neglected property.

Eventually the work was completed and the money ran out. It became increasingly obvious it was costing me more to continue working than it was to stay home. I retired.

As much as I loved my grandchildren, I didn't much like them as a steady diet. To transition from boardrooms to full-time babysitter wasn't going to happen--and it wasn't expected. They'd had a caregiver since their mother decided she didn't have any maternal interests, and left. I threw myself into my writing, churned stories out like an oil well that finally found oxygen.

I did get involved with my grandchildren's lives, signing them up and transporting then to swimming lessons, soccer, gymnastics and art classes. It was because of these activities I got to know their caregiver, the woman who'd been nurturing them since birth. Laura was a force to be recognized.

The swagger, style and contagious strength changed lives, molded children, but for me, Laura Davie became my friend. She had a special place in my heart, as she had for hundreds of others who had every right to feel equally cherished. Once I hit Laura's radar, there was no escape--she invested, not just in the children she cared for, but also their families.

It seemed she kept a mental inventory; always knowing what everyone needed, and adopted the responsibility to make sure we got it. When my eyes began to fail, and I could no longer see the letters on my keyboard, she arrived with a packet of yellow neon letters, stickers, gluing them onto my computer before she gathered up the children under her care for her next pit stop.

She found a special chair for Tracy, another friend who needed posture relief in her nail shop, found a use for objects she picked up roadside, and restored them to their former beauty. But, far beyond her physical efforts to take on any project, she counseled and empathized with the hills and valleys of her friends' lives.

Laura died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism--a blood clot in the lungs. She was only sixty years old and seemingly in excellent health.

But, there was some warning. She had been under enormous stress. A gazebo she was having built in her backyard had rendered the entire rear of her property inaccessible for the children in her daycare. It was a project scheduled to be completed in two weeks, and eight weeks later the contractor showed up--or not at all--whenever he felt like it.

She was crying, venting, as I spoke to her on the phone Saturday morning, but hung up when the contractor showed up--three hours late. Later, I called back, and she told me she couldn't stop shaking or get warm. I thought it was a stress overload or a bug. Sunday morning I brought her soup. Tired, she told me she just wanted to sleep...and she did...never to wake up again.

My grief, deeply felt, cannot compare to the enormous void in my grandchildren's lives she leaves behind, now totally motherless. When a teacher referred to Laura as their babysitter, my granddaughter gave the teacher a blank stare. "That's not the babysitter. That's my Laura."

My daughter-in-law abandoned her family. In every way, Laura was my grandchildren's mommy.

For everyone who shared her orbit, she was 'my Laura',

Laura had generational wisdom, stories that never failed to impress me about her own childhood, her mother's tenacity and her father's devotion. The lessons lived through her formed the spine of her child-rearing philosophy. She often told me about parents who arrived with their child accompanied with lists of what they would eat or not, schedules and quirks. Laura would nod, send parents on their way with a reassuring smile, and then do it her way. And, of course, hers was the right way.

Laura knew how to set up disciplines and boundaries, allowing children to feel loved and respected. Her tireless patience was sprinkled with humor and generous amounts of praise. Generous to a fault, she gave almost one hundred children a legacy that can't be measured.

Did she love us enough? Love us enough so that we can let her go, inspired us to be all that she saw in each of us? I'm going to try to find the courage to do just that--live by the example she gave to me.

The loss washes over me at unexpected moments. What's wrong with me? Tears fill my eyes, challenging my equilibrium as I cook breakfast for my grandchildren.

"I like Laura's eggs better."

"Yes, I know." I looked into my granddaughter's sorrowful eyes, and she looked into mine. "I'm trying to do the best I can." We ate breakfast in silence. It is what it is.

The kids are resilient, far more accepting that my eggs will have to do--more so than I am. But, here's what I've finally learned: The pain of loss is worth the journey. It's not pointless to love...not at all.

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Author Notes
The picture represents, if not an accurate representation of a 60-year-old woman, the essence of a soul. it surely does capture the spirit of Laura and who she thought she was--red hair, animal prints and attitude. No argument. Thanks to the artist.
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