1927 - 2014
I attended the funeral today of one of Lauren's closest friends. It is causing me to ponder on this friend and the difference of one whether "added" or "subtracted."
Betty and Lauren never swapped stories of boyfriends, ate lunch, did homework, or commented and laughed about their science teacher like "typical friends" do. They never spent hours on the phone or texted a single time. In fact, Lauren and Betty didn't actually really "meet" until the Carnival celebrating Lauren's first remission. But, Betty was a close and doting friend. She had been attentive to Lauren's story and Lauren's needs all throughout her first battle and remission, ... as she would be during her second battle and remission, her third, and ultimately the fourth that ended Lauren's life at 15 1/2. Cards, gifts, treats, projects to disrupt boredom, and hand-sewn scarves (in every color, pattern, and print known to holidays, seasons, and fashion) to cover Lauren's bald head poured into our home over the 3 1/2 year struggle to defeat cancer .... all at the hands AND HEART of a remarkable friend, Betty - -
Betty and Lauren became friends, not because of similar life circumstances, or fondness the way many of our friendships began. It simply began because Betty chose to make it begin. Through a small association Betty had with us as Lauren's parents 20 years earlier, she heard about Lauren's story and came 'running' (on her crutches) to try to lighten her burden (and ours). The evidence of her thoughtfulness was apparent all over our home, and most of the scarves she sewed for Lauren (although deeply cherished) were donated to people whose burden Lauren wished to lighten. Everything we could re-gift was re-gifted and I'll never forget when Lauren sent off the last box of scarves to Primary Children's Medical Center, the name she put on the card was not "Lauren" but "from your friend, Betty Petersen." Lauren and Betty, although over 60 years different in age, and having no common life experiences, shared the desire to "bear one another's burdens."
I never ceased to marvel at the gifts that would come to us (through Betty's sister Renee who did plenty of serving of her own) even though I came to expect the packages because I knew well enough, the intentions of these two sisters. Still, I wondered how new Christmas scarves and cross stitch patterns and stacks of $2 bills kept coming after most others would have long since 'lost interest.' Betty remained Lauren's friend through thick and through thin and mourned deeply when she passed away.
Betty's life had not been easy. In fact, she had health issues since she was seven years old. She never had children and never married. And, though she may have felt otherwise, she made a HUGE difference, especially to a 15 year old dying from cancer that she had met only once, but provided support on a level so very unique to this beautiful woman and her desire to make a difference. Adding her "one" to our life was exponentially profound, and having that "one" subtracted made a much bigger impact than the amount of interaction or her tiny little frame would suggest in her absence. We mourn her passing from the exponentially profound impact she had on our family .... which is to say we mourn deeply this great woman who made a sweet and significant difference in our world. Adding her made a significant difference, so subtracting her did too. When I heard that she had passed away, I wept ....
But, like her other friends and family who were touched by her life, I felt happy for her ... and celebrate that she is free of the limitations of her physical body. And, I can't help but think of the reality that she has many friends who waited to greet her, like my Lauren -- who was likely reunited with a 'forever' friend that she has known for much longer than any of us can imagine. And, while most life-circumstances bore no similarity, I couldn't help cry just a little (or better said: a lot) that through the promised healing of the Savior, each of these angels has shed crutches they will never need again.
In loving tribute to our sweet friend Betty and to any others who are like her or aspire to be like her ... to reach out even to perfect strangers in a manner of sharing a burden, to be Christ-like and charitable, to mourn with those that mourn ... we give thanks that our lives crossed her path and we were able to see a little more of heaven (and the CEO thereof) through her and the difference she made in our lives.
Dance in peace and joy. (Psalms 30:11)