death, loss, sister

Sister

On August 13, my sweet “sister-in-love,” Laci, went to Heaven. It was not a surprise, as we had known her time here was coming to a close, but still so hard to accept. There is no way to convince the mind that such a young life should end. 34 years old, with a 7- and 4-year old at home, Laci had a lot of living left to do. I feel robbed of time with her. I feel bereft, heartbroken. It also feels so surreal. I am relieved that her pain and intense suffering are over, but I grieve the loss of her steady and faithful influence on my life.

All of us are unique, individual beings, and the knowledge of this makes life so exciting, relationships so rewarding, but in ten lifetimes you would never meet a person like Laci. She was confident, bold in her convictions, completely selfless, generous to a degree that I have never seen, and will never see again. The world is a darker place without the sunshine of her smile, and the workings of her brain, always planning things for others. She would let nothing go to waste if she thought another person could use it. She enthusiastically accepted hand-me-downs, and told me joyfully of the fun of unpacking each tiny shirt, each pair of slightly worn shoes, as treasures, full of a worth that her eyes could see when most of us saw something temporal, used, plain. She saw the potential in everything to bring light and joy to others. Her snack baskets were bountiful gifts of great attention and care, and it brought her joy to meet the physical needs of others with food. She was in charge of snacks and meals at her church, and coordinated meals for church families welcoming new babies, or returning home from hospitalizations. That ministry lives on without her now, serving her own family in a way that I am certain she wouldn’t have anticipated.

Laci was brave. As my husband, her brother, has told me and his friends hundreds of times, she was the fastest “girl” he had ever seen on a quad, and would continue to be faster than all of his friends. He used to remind them that his sister would outpace them anytime, anywhere. His pride in her shone so brightly in those moments. From the moment I met Laci, in the early summer of 2003, I was in awe of her confidence. She was so unshakably Laci, and she was truly one of a kind. I remember her asking Josh if a shirt and skirt matched. “I think the skirt is too fancy for the shirt” he would say. (I wouldn’t recommend Josh as an authority on clothes.) She couldn’t be bothered with trivial matters like fashion: she had a world in need of her, and she was busy. She would tell jokes that sometimes only I laughed at (in her defense, they were great jokes, and I would know!) and then thank me for “getting her.” I think we were about as different as two college-aged gals could be. She was competitive and athletic, always moving, always doing something. While I focused on my hair and getting my liquid eyeliner just right, she threw her hair into a ponytail and was out the door. Always loving to be out of doors, moving. she never allowed her gender to get in the way of what she wanted to do. It was this, and our differences, that caused us to be such fast friends; we never had cause to be competitive with one another, because our interests were so varied and she set her sights higher. She wanted to compete with Josh. On ski/snowboard trips she wanted me to judge which of them got more air off of a jump.

The thing that makes my heart hurt, aside from my own loss and grief, is the knowledge that Laci has been so happy. She had really found her stride in life, and things were going well. I remember her telling me that life was just good. She had become a stay-at-home mom, had a rewarding role at her church, and a beautiful home. It makes me sad, and angry, frankly, to think of how short lived this perfection was for her. She was such a great mom. I was so impressed by her casual but firm take on parenting. Last Christmas, as she had made her way to her family room using a walker and kind of collapsed into the couch, she told me how she was aware of some behavioral stage Alexis was in and was keeping her eye on the behavior to shut it down. Using a gentle “no thank you” or “do you want to try that again?” She would redirect the kids toward better behavior, and be unshaken and calm in the process. We talked about how great it was that we each blamed our own kids first, and then found out the facts, rather than blaming the other’s children, even if the facts seemed evident. Our kids get along so well, and genuinely love one another. I feel so blessed that we have these living pieces of Laci to keep her best attributes living on through them.

Laci gave me a beautiful gift in the last time we visited her. We had this amazing day; Laci requested all kinds of yummy foods from a local restaurant, and I supplemented that with pastries. She was so excited to see us, and to eat yummy foods, and we had some really great, deep conversations about life, death, and faith. She was struggling, at this point, to feed herself, so I sat by her bedside and fed her, watching her face light up and her eyes close with each bite. As we talked, sometimes she would fall asleep for a bit, and then join our conversation again. I felt as though josh and I were trying to keep things light, but Laci wasn’t one to avoid a chance to dive deeper into the serious stuff. She asked us how we felt about the fact that she was dying. Only Laci would think of how her mortality affected us. During a point where just the two of us were talking, she looked at me and said “isn’t it so great that we already loved each other? We could have been like so many sisters in law who fight over petty things, but we never did. We didn’t waste any time fighting or not getting along. We didn’t have to start loving each other just now because I am dying. We didn’t waste any time not loving each other.” I can’t even think about this without crying. It was a serious gift, the kind only Laci could give. The kind she was so great at giving.

Sometimes Laci would call me out of the blue and ask how she could be praying for me. She said it was her honor, and she wanted to know specifics, so she was praying for just what I needed. I had told her, toward the end, that I felt so worried..,I’ll feel so lost without your prayer. Who will pray for me?

One thing that Laci said to me on that last beautiful day together still haunts me. She said that she just couldn’t find the blessing in this. She said if her suffering would bless anyone, she would keep doing it. It wasn’t blessing her, she wasn’t healing, and it wasn’t blessing anyone else. I tried to tell her that it certainly wasn’t true, and her faithfulness blessed so many. I know this wasn’t the outcome she wanted or expected. I know she believed God would save her physical body on Earth. I don’t know why He didn’t. I know she had plenty more work she would have done to glorify Him. From the first time I heard of her diagnosis, it didn’t make sense. Why Laci? She had diffuse “B” cell lymphoma. Blood cancer. It can travel wherever blood can travel. It was in her stomach and liver, and I remember talking to josh about how insulting it felt for a person so focused on health and nutrition, who didn’t drink alcohol, so have cancer there. Of all places. But then it was everywhere, in almost all places. And so, while I’ll never understand the whys in this story, I do know that no experience is wasted. I know that I will continue to think, learn, and grow from the example of Laci’s life. I will learn things in my grief that I wouldn’t have without it. In a conversation with one of my best friends, I told her how upset i was that Laci didn’t see the blessing in her experience. She corrected me. “Oh Korey” she said, “that’s not true. My life has been SO blessed by this experience. My prayer life has been blessed immensely. I am praying so much more often because I’ve been thinking of her, and I’m not just praying about her. My life has been blessed so much by how she’s transformed my prayer life.” Oh, how I wish I could tell her this.

I got a text yesterday that sums Laci up so perfectly. It was the owner of the yoga studio where I used to host my La Leche League meetings. She was texting her condolences, and told me something so perfectly “Laci.” She wrote:

Korey- sending all my
Love to you and the fam. I just now made the connection that I met Laci as she gave me some Maternity clothes when I was pregnant with London just 4 years ago and she was the sweetest! I’m so so so sorry. ♥️

This encounter is so emblematic of the person Laci was, and the lives she touched. I hope she remembers that I asked her to send ladybugs to me when she thinks of me…I’ll be watching for them. I know she’s in paradise and out of pain, and I am so thankful. I also know that my life will never be the same. There is less light in it, and there is a hole no one can fill.

Rest In Peace, my sweet sister. I love you now and forever. Until we meet again. ❤️

https://youtu.be/5Btot3TeM2k

1 thought on “Sister”

  1. Your words are so beautiful.. Thank you for telling this story. I will never forget the special woman Laci was, her faith has definitely rattled me. I too feel of this tragic loss at such a young age., I grieve for your immediate family the loss you all must be feeling. Laci was my neighbor in Orange but she and Mark became very dear friends.. Again your tribute to Laci is beautiful. She had touched more lives than she’d ever imagined. God bless you and the entire family at this difficult time.

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