This is the homily I wrote for Laura's funeral service today. It makes reference to Ecclesiastes 11:1 "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days." To me it sounds a little strange and detached, since I'm writing about myself in third person. But I felt it was important to make the homily as broad as possible, and talk about the impact she had had on so many lives. There were well over a hundred people at her funeral today--we had been told the church seated 140, and there were people standing around the back it was so packed. I didn't want to make it seem like I alone was claiming her memory by telling a personal story about her. But, I promise I will post some of those personal stories here in the coming days. For now, this is what people in church heard from Reverend Tammy Lee:
Whenever Laura went out in public, she always met someone that she knew. It didn't matter if she was at a restaurant, a park, a theater, or just walking through a grocery store--she would bump into people who wanted to stand and talk with her for ten minutes. And she would always give people those ten minutes, or more. It sometimes seemed like Laura knew details of everyone's life. When she'd see people, she'd remember the names and ages of their kids. She could talk about where they'd just gone on vacation, or how their parents were doing, or what their favorite flowers were. It was as if she knew every single person in the town of Chapel Hill, and they all knew her.
Laura had plenty of excuses not to spend time standing in a grocery store chatting. She was a busy single mom who over the years dealt with health problems that sometimes made even a small excursion exhausting. But she cast her bread upon the waters by giving everyone she met her time and her kindness. She was willing to offer her friends help in anyway--giving people rides when they needed them, offering what little financial support she could cobble together to people in tougher situations than her own, and, most importantly, in always being willing to listen to people no matter what their problems. Her sage advice and terrific sense of irony carried her friends through many a tough time. In later years, she saw the bread she had cast upon the water returned to her. Her kindness and charity were given back ten fold by her vast network of friends and loved ones.
Laura lived life with a sense of adventure and passion. Laura once wrote in a letter to James, her companion, "Sometimes I get very excited when I think of what will happen between now and this time next year. Great things can happen. Life is often like the fruit on the branch, it ripens and becomes sweeter." Her optimism inspired the people around her. Yet there was nothing unrealistic in her acceptance of her circumstances in life. Laura lived knowing that she might not live as long as the average person. She never allowed that to make her bitter. She accepted her problems as part of her life, and learned to draw wisdom from them. She believed that the battles she fought in life, even the losing ones, made her stronger. She said, "I get what anyone gets, one lifetime." She made the most of that life. Laura remained focused on what she could do, not on what she had lost or might lose. She found something beautiful in almost every day.
Laura loved her children. She was proud of Bevin's maturity and independence. She adored Simon's humor and insight. She cherished Veronica's creativity and energy. She loved her family, her parents: Bob and Anne, her brothers Mike and Matt and Andy, her sisters Sara and Alicia. She welcomed any and all additions to her already large family, forming a special bond with her sister in law Jessica and her sister in law in waiting Naoko. Her joys in life were many and simple--she possessed an almost inexhaustible knowledge of flowers. She loved Mediterranean food and wasabi and pickles. She wore out many a pencil filling in su-do-ku and crossword puzzles. There was almost no occasion in life where she couldn't find an appropriate quote from the Simpsons. She could find something to laugh about in even the darkest moments.
We all lose something in her passing. But we've all gained something from her life. We can take the seeds of her kindness and love and wisdom and carry them out in to the world and plant them in our own lives and the lives of others. The good she did in this world doesn't end simply because her life has ended. As long as we carry her in our memories, Laura will be with us.