by Pam Dillon
Sunday night when I got home, I put on pajamas, crawled into bed and pulled out my laptop, hoping to catch up. I had been gone for a few days, out of town and on the run, so there would be a lot to see on Facebook.
It took a long time to understand what I was witnessing. The photographs, comments, condolences and tributes—numerous heartfelt, personal tributes—didn’t make sense.
So many pictures, of friends and special events and happy times, showed Laurel Anderson’s shining eyes and bright smile.
The obituary, shared and shared again, was irrefutable. Laurel died last Thursday, April 28, leaving a beloved husband, two cherished children, and countless others to mourn her passing. She was 48 years old.
I can’t seem to get the words or the tears out.
Lola had a passion for Starbucks.
And on a weekday morning in November of 2014 we were together at one of the Kanata locations. While sitting in high chairs and sipping tea, we talked about cancer. We both had it.
There was a lot to talk about, as writers, mothers, fair-skinned redheads and women dealing with the big C. With the bravado of little kids, we compared scars and swapped stories about diagnoses, doctors, care and broad-brimmed sunhats.
As we sat by the big window overlooking a drab grey suburban parking lot, her gorgeous long hair glinted in the sunlight.
She shone that way from the inside too.
As the outpouring of grief on social media attests, Lola brightened people’s lives.
Our message-chats on Facebook and Twitter had gone on long before that day and continued after.
The words of hers that ache in me are from 12/15, 6:52pm:
“WE are going to be fine too right Pam?”
Before cancer, I was a fan of Laurel’s writing and followed her blog; occasionally our paths crossed at local events. After, when I participated in a fundraising walk for breast cancer, she sponsored me.
Always so generous.
Then later last spring I was moving and needed a bed. She had one she was giving away, so she welcomed me into her home, introduced me to her kids, Brynn and Max, and playfully offered me other stuff in her garage.
Not only was the queen-sized bed bigger than the van I had borrowed, I didn’t know how to get the van’s seats down. While I was preoccupied with being embarrassed, Max figured it out via Google. Then we all tried to get the damn mattress squeezed in. Wasn’t happening, but there was hilarity in the effort.
Days later, on Attempt #2 to collect the bed, I arrived with muscle (my youngest) and a bigger vehicle. The birds were singing, the flowers were in bloom, the evening was warm and lovely. As ever, Laurel was gracious and warm and funny.
With her husband John’s help, the bed was finally deposited on a blanketed van floor; and then we talked in the driveway about Kingston and Queen’s and kids and life. The bed that had been carted home from the university after her son finished school? It would be going back to Kingston in the fall when my son started second year.
Laurel was incredibly proud of her kids: Max, who then headed away to medical school, and talented young Brynn. She loved them fiercely. She was full of enthusiasm and curiosity and life.
That’s the last real image I have: Laurel in the driveway smiling. Barelegged, in flipflops and a tank top, with dogs in the background and family near.
Here and there we connected since, in likes and hearts and quick comments.
The weather reports from St. Maarten?
Her blog, Lola Speaks—and those ephemeral, riveting fragments of a memoir she so wanted to complete?
The snapshots—Starbucks, sweet treats, a grinning, auburn-haired girl on a swing—of joy pursued?
How you spoke through your life.
How you are missed.
Surely you are bowling in heaven.