Happy Birthday, Laura.

Happy Birthday, Laura.  Today we celebrate what would have been your 50th birthday.  It’s so hard to imagine that you’re not here.  Not with us.  So hard to comprehend how fragile life is.  So hard to accept that you are gone so soon from our lives.  We wrestle everyday with feelings about love and loss, memories of you, questions about why and memories of life with you.

I remember the year the we both turned 40.  We split the difference from my spring and your summer birthdays and had a party at our house in June to celebrate both our birthdays.  What a night that was.  Family and friends joined us for a beautiful night at our Landy Bank Court home.  That was a house you loved so much.  And it was a great home.  We had so many firsts with the boys in that house.  Sam had turned a year old and just started walking when we moved in, and that was the home that Luke knew for his first six years. We hosted kids’ birthday parties, great Thanksgivings and Christmases and special nights there.  We watched it snow over the holidays in 2008 for days and days.  We couldn’t even see our mailbox out front or the patio furniture out back. All blanketed in a world of white.  And it took 28 days for the city to finally send a plow up to us to clear out the toboggan run of a road we’d created with our neighbors.  I remember how the boys used to play in our front foyer, and when they heard our two canine labs, Indy and Leo, racing down the hallway coming toward them, the boys would “assume the position” against the walls so that they wouldn’t get knocked over by the dogs, often wearing nothing more than their diapers and giggles. We hosted a family weekend in March 2005 in that house that celebrated two Christenings, a first birthday, a 65th birthday and a family wedding.  So many fond memories. So much love.

a spring snow in Reno 2009

My balance gets uneven when I think about all the other firsts in our lives that you’ll miss.  You’ve missed awards for the boys this year and seeing them getting their first car.  You’ll miss graduations and first jobs.  You’ve missed seeing us raise the puppy that you picked out.  And it’s too hard to think about the other experiences with their lives that you’re going to miss, and we’ll miss having you be part of. 

You were a remarkable light in this world.  There’s not a person who I’ve spoken with or heard from about you who hasn’t mentioned your smile, or your warmth, or the depth of your caring.  You were such a genuinely kindhearted person, and you made others feel so welcomed in your life.  While you’re not with us today, there is so much that you’ve left behind for us to absorb, especially the boys and me.  You taught us about unconditional love and so much more.

It’s so unfair that you are gone, but you’ll never be forgotten.  As a mother, you gave the boys such a solid foundation in life.  They are amazing human beings and they are a living legacy to your grace and loving spirit.  As a wife, you supported me and cared for me through our happy times, our stressful times and our challenging times.  I know I wasn’t always the best version of myself with you, but you accepted me for who I was, faults and all.  You loved me none the less with all of my holes.  While I’ve experienced other losses in my life, nothing really prepared me for the experience of losing our guiding light. Even when I was wandering in the dark, I always knew that your light shone the brightest for us and was there to guide me.  I’ve tried to learn from these experiences over the past several months, and though I’ve stumbled and lost balance, I continue finding my way forward for myself and our sons.  I know the boys have had moments of reflection and remembrance of you that have grabbed ahold of them strongly this summer, but they are remarkable in their paths and are continuing to grow as amazing young men.

As a daughter, you brought joy and meaning to your parents’ lives, and they loved you endlessly.  I understand why, now, you had such trouble moving forward after your father’s death.  As a sister and a friend, I watched you build and extend relationships in which you put others first.  I watched the friendship with you and my sister develop and grow over the years, to the point that I knew I was outmatched, outclassed and outvoted every time three of us were together, but I was okay with that because being with the two of you were among the happiest memories that I share.   As a colleague and manager, your co-workers, employees and friends have reached out to me with the warmest stories about the incredible impact you made in their lives.  We should all be so lucky to have worked with and be friends with someone as supportive as you.

We still feel your presence in so many ways, and I know that you look out for us now from a different place, but it’s hard not to feel sorry for our loss.  We miss you and wish you were here.  This summer, we’ll spend time in the mountains and we’ll return to Kauai, the place where you and I honeymooned.  That was our plan for this year to celebrate our 50th birthdays: to travel together and introduce the boys to that magical island, and I’ll be doing it with those memories of you. 

I had the opportunity to spend almost half of your life with you, and I honestly expected that we’d have another 40 years together.  I’m learning to be at peace without you, but even when I’m in the embrace of friends and others, it’s a difficult balance at times to find that peace in the space between where happiness and grief co-exist. 

 I have had so many conversations about you with other people; some who knew you and some who don’t.  Your friends, our friends, here in Virginia and elsewhere miss you.  Those friends and our family have helped me make it through this past year.  Whether they knew it or not, they’ve helped me battle depression and cope with grief.  They’ve listened endlessly, and read my writings, too, to be able to understand and offer me support, condolence and guidance.  It’s good to talk about you and it’s good to share. I’ve learned that people not only want to know that we’re doing OK, but want us to remember. And we do remember you, as you’ll always be part of who we are as move forward in our lives.

On this day, on your birthday, my wish for you is that you experience our love for you.

In the sky above, or the ground below….wherever you may be.
Whether your sky is blue or a blanket made of stars.
If you see us here, or your view is a mountainscape of vibrant wild flowers. 
Whether you hear us, or listen to the wind quake the Aspens.
When you walk on the beach with white sand in your toes, or dance among the clouds.
If you feel the sun on your shoulders, or the change in your weather.
As you feel the weight in our hearts and our joys in your memories,
Our love for you is all around.

Happy Birthday, Laura

Happy Birthday, L.
Love, Chris, Sam & Luke

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