My priority this weekend was putting together a site to raise money for my sister's increasing medical bills. Then, I received a phone call that her condition was rapidly worsening. An hour later, my phone rang again from the same number. No part of me wanted to answer it. She was gone.
Laura was the middle child in our family and I was the baby. I would often tell people that being three years apart, we were constantly mad at each other growing up, but as I look through photos from those days, there we are, side by side in picture after picture, smiling.
We played innumerable board games together, wrestled over the remote control, fought until there was physical evidence. I kept score at her high school volleyball games and marveled as she went on multi-day bike trips with my dad. In the days before the Internet, DVRs or even VCRs, I would watch her favorite soap opera to let her know what happened when she got home late from school. I teased her about her first boyfriends and sat on the bed and listened to her when they broke her heart.
Laura was so great about my first girlfriend, of course, that she was a bridesmaid when Lori and I got married. Laura knew food and cooking better than most anyone and she and Lori shared many irreplaceable hours in the kitchen together, most recently at Thanksgiving.
She lived with us for a few months while our son was a toddler. He used to push the door open and tiptoe into her room to get a peek at this exciting new presence. She would sneak up to meet him with a surprise, "Boo!" and he would squeal and laugh and run while she chased him. For years she was known in our house as Aunt Boo.
What a sweet, beautiful woman she was. Everyone who met her loved her. She agonized over the smallest decisions, but jumped at sudden opportunities to get on a plane. She sought out beaches constantly and found peace at the ocean's edge.
There were always interesting tales from her travels. For some reason, her story about getting pulled over for speeding while driving across New Mexico was one of my favorites. She started by expressing surprise, but the cop would have none of it. "We've been following you for 10 miles. The only time you slowed down was when someone didn't get out of your way fast enough!" She told it with the biggest smile. I doubt she actually got a ticket.
Laura was a unique soul. She helped endless new families and babies as a doula. She played guitar and had a wonderful voice, became fluent in sign language, was a vegetarian before most knew such a thing existed, and danced to reggae in Jamaica. She seemed unsure of her opinions, but left you wondering why you were so sure of yours.
When we watched movies and shows together, she would groan at unrealistic scenes. "That would never happen." I'd chide her, "It's a story! Who wants to watch real life?"
Not me, not today.
Many years ago, she and a girlfriend traveled the globe for six months, from Thailand to New Zealand to Malawi and more. They brought with them nothing more than massive backpacks and a fierce belief that there is no time like the present. She knew better than anyone I know that all that matters in life is people and moments.
God, I miss her.