(This photo was taken in January 2009 at the grave of her adored Great Uncle
Vergil - who was similar to a grandfather to Lauren. The cancer had returned
for the third time, which she would achieve remission from, but die from the
fourth onset by the end of that same year. I dearly loved the feeling of her on my
shoulder (as I experienced much of during her illness and treatments) - and miss it.
My painfully swollen eyes and the subsequent smile on my face speaks volumes
about what my heroes (my family) could cause in me at the same time.
As part of a school assignment after the election of 2008, Lauren's 9th grade geography teacher had the students write letters to themselves, talking about current events and predicting what life would be like in November of 2014 when the letters would arrive back in the mail to these students. I would suppose that the letters were laughable and even dismissed easily for most of the students and their parents. For the parents of this particular student who passed away in December 2009, the handwritten letter from Lauren to Lauren arriving unannounced in the mail -- turned the world upside down ... again ...
Lauren's insights into the world of junior high school, political perspective and consequences of elections, and her own little portion of the world at large were amazing. She was pretty much spot on and it's unfortunate that she couldn't have had a public voice for her thoughts and concerns. Even the "impact" she hoped her life would have is remarkable. For, even though she has passed away, her predictions about her "life" still have many of the same affects that they would have if cancer hadn't robbed her of a longer time to live out her dreams and anticipations.
Lauren couldn't have known then that had she lived, she would have actually just returned from a mission, not been preparing for one, as she didn't know the age for young women would change from 21 to 19. She desired to serve .... and one can say she was certainly called, she has just been serving for five years, instead of 18 months, and my repeated pleas to her Mission President for weekly e-mails or twice a year Skype like all of my other missionaries had, have still not been responded to as I have hoped. :-) She anticipated a college study and career in medical research, although she could not have understood the impact and contributions her repeated remissions would have in the research world that would stretch beyond what any career could have likely contributed. Her life was indeed, dedicated to making a difference in that world to many who will never meet her or know her name, or see her handwriting that expressed her wish to alter their lives for the better.
There was so much more to the letter. She included what she was asking for for Christmas (yes, cows were on the list) and what she was grateful for (yes, cows were on the list.) Her humor was apparent, her hopes for a full life of love and laughter, and her unique perspective too. It was a great blessing to see this hopeful, spirited, grateful young girl's words from her heart in her own hand.
(A note in the margin ... that makes me smile!)
It was also a cruel burden. I couldn't breathe. I dropped to the ground and sobbed in huge heaves of grief. It at first, seemed to be a sick prank and I mourned that someone would be so thoughtless, and that I had to bear the new angst of the life she "anticipated" that she didn't get. My despair was thick and deep and inescapable. How I missed her and how I mourned that she (and her siblings) were deprived of her life as she envisioned it to be. How I ached that the beautiful and sweet remission she wrote the letter during - was not to last - - that it had only been temporary.
But, so much of this life IS temporary. Grief, pain, and mourning will all be replaced with lasting joys we cannot as of yet, comprehend. What we do for a living, what we study in school, what our political persuasion is - - is all fleeting. While it can feel like an eternal determination, it isn't. It certainly wasn't for her.
We would all like to "plan" our life ... write the script, determine the "pain threshold", avoid the unpleasant experiences, and experience fulfilled wishes, satisfied dreams, and admirable success. None of us would write an illness in to the lives of our children, or even into the children of our worst enemy. If I could have 'predicted' or 'determined' my daughter's script, it would have been much different. (At least the temporal wishful thinking of no illness.)
But, I couldn't have been as kind and generous as the One who wrote each of my children into my script. I couldn't have conceived of an all-encompassing, all-inclusive, eternal and infinite Atonement and how it would deliver me (and my children) from death and hell. I couldn't have been so kind as to make a Redeemer and Savior who comprehended the love and rejoicing as well as the pain and the sorrow of my family's life ... and who would live it with me by his own offering!!
One of the great gifts of being a believer in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the opportunity to bless a baby to give it a name, and an 'invitation' to some of the greater (and more lasting) joys of life. Lauren was one such baby, with a very loving father who poured out his soul to God as he asked for her to know lasting and eternal joy. In fact, that was pretty much all this blessing was about -- lasting and eternal things that he blessed our baby daughter with. It was the most ideal 'script' that could have been written, given the reality that she was susceptible to all of the hardships of life, including disease, as part of God's eternal plan for His children.
(Lauren's blessing day ... July 10, 1994)
One very important line came from that blessing in which God was asked by Lauren's father to bless Lauren with a "desire early in her life to know her Savior, and know of His sacrifice for her that opened up eternal possibilities (for her)" .... What more could be asked of any life ... to know the eternal nature of the Savior's sacrifice, and to know that it is personal!!!?
This, Lauren did know most of all! This was always a part of her experience, and a part of her anticipation. This, above all other things, is the most fulfilled dream of all and the sweetest of satisfied wishes. If we could have had just one wish .... it would have had to have been that one.
The angst I felt at the letter from Lauren's school assignment 6 years ago drew me back to the real blessings that were asked for her life and the real promises that were made to her. She wasn't promised a life free from suffering, or a life free from disease and death ... but she was promised a Savior - that she could (and did) know personally, and he followed through on his promises.
We couldn't have known the sorrow and the joy that would make that the most profound and sacred of the wishes we could make for any of our children, despite whether we look back, live only for this moment, or dream off into the future.
On this 29th day of December, the 5th anniversary of her passing, I mourn her, yearn for her, ache for her, and rejoice that she finished her course, firm in the faith of her "Best, Heavenly Friend" (as she called him) who assures that I will see her again and my mourning will be exchanged for dancing.
May she dance on in the peace and light she brought to us in her testimony of HIM.