Laurie passed away the day before 9-11 (9/10/01) after a 6 year battle with cancer.
This lady never once complained about her illness, about her fate. I never heard a solitary “Why me?” or even her crying about what was going on.
We held a one day service & viewing here in San Antonio before returning to her hometown, Staten Island, NY, for another viewing, funeral & burial.
Or, rather, trying to return back home.
Due to prohibited air travel following the 9-11 tragedy, we (my daughter, Heather, and I) had to wait almost a full week before we were able to travel back to NY along with Laurie.
Viewing services & everything should always be for fondly remembering the departed, but they’re more often so painful & somber as the person’s passing is still fresh in people’s minds.
It wasn’t too different at Laurie’s wake here in San Antonio, especially since it was held on 9-11. There were many people there, lots of friends, both personal as well as from business.
The priest eventually lead us in prayers & then asked if anyone wanted to say a few words about Laurie.
Steve Campbell, our close friend & li’l Julia’s Dad (for whom Laurie babysat for the first 4 years of her life), got up to talk about Laurie. His words were so very touching as he recalled how it first came about that Laurie began watching Julia.
I happened to see his wife, Jill, at work with Steve & their newborn as she was getting ready to return to work from maternity leave.
He had never met me nor Laurie so, of course, he was a little apprehensive about everything.
I invited them to come over to our home & meet Laurie.
Steve told it best when he said, “So we went over to Mike’s to meet Laurie. She seemed like a very warm, loving lady who would make a great babysitter for our Julia.
“But once we saw Heather & what a beautiful & well-behaved young lady she was (12 at the time), that was the clincher!
“We immediately knew what great parents they were & were so confident that Laurie would take wonderful care of Julia!”
And I clearly remember how very quickly Laurie & Julia bonded that evening…can you say “instantly”?
That really was so beautiful to hear from Steve.
The priest again asked if anyone would like to step forward. I was a complete mess as were most Laurie’s closest friends.
And, then, Heather stepped forward.
You could hear a pin drop it was so quiet.
In a calm, slow & confident voice, Heather began talking about her Mom.
She told the story about when I took Laurie to the doctor’s office & we received the fatal diagnosis of “1 year to live”. It was August 30th of 2000…Laurie beat that by 11 days.
She always was a fighter who would not accept defeat.
When we arrived home, we spoke with Heather. Laurie then suggested that I take Heather out for dinner…Laurie wasn’t very hungry.
I said a few things to Heather on the way to the diner, but she was completely silent. Nothing different during the entire meal.
On the way home, I asked her if she fully understood what we discussed earlier when we got home from the doctor. She nodded that she did.
We arrived back home & were heading inside when Heather said that she wanted to stay outside for awhile instead. She just sat down on the step by the front door.
Laurie asked me how dinner went. I told her everything, then she asked about Heather.
*return to the wake*
“So there I was, just sitting by myself, as I tend to get very quiet when I’m feeling down.
“All of a sudden, the door opens & it’s my Mom. With everything she was going through, she came out to comfort me.
“To make sure that I was OK.
“To tell me that everything is going to be all right.
“She never cared about herself or how she was feeling and she never, ever complained about this whole thing. She had every reason in the world to…she didn’t do anything wrong…but she never said a word about it.
“She would just worry about my Dad & me.
“I loved my Mom so much.”
People were sobbing uncontrollably.
She then read a poem that she had written herself about her Mom.
Never in my life was I as proud of her than I was at that very moment. In fact, I’ve never been prouder about anyone or anything in my entire life.
This was my beautiful 17 year-old daughter who personified all the good things about her Mom.
A week later, after we were finally allowed to fly back home, she did the same exact thing, in front of our families & friends at Laurie’s service.
Perfectly calm, with a strength & purpose that just blew me away.
We had the funeral Mass for Laurie the following morning & then buried her at our plot in Resurrection Cemetery in Staten Island.
Less than 4 months later, we also buried Laurie’s Dad, my father-in-law John Hemmy, in a grave not far from his daughter’s.
Thank you so very much for listening!