Jay's Letter to Laura
So, we used to write each other letters and cards for holidays, birthdays, and just whenever.This will likely be my last letter to Laura…
Wow, what a rollercoaster ride over the past 19 years! We went through a lot for the sake of love:
- From both going to college in Missouri and driving an hour and a half pretty much every
weekend (for 4 straight years)
- To more separation while you were in Spain and Mexico.
- To moving to Tyler, Tx (the worst place in the world)!
- And of course, your illness (beginning in 2010) took everything to a whole new level…
For over a decade, we did absolutely everything possible to help your survival. It became a full-time job for you with all the doctor’s appointments, blood draws, CT scans,
treatments, etc. It became a research obsession for me to try and help you any way that I could. I don’t think people realize how much you went through because you did it all
with grace and a smile the entire time.
But, I know you went through so much pain (8 or so “major surgeries”, 40+ CT scans, chemo that took your beautiful hair, 74+ CA-125 blood tests, numerous other X-rays and tests, and countless chemos, research trials, immunotherapy drugs, and supplements). You went through all this because you wanted to live for me, Maddox, your family, and your friends! You loved your life. The hardest part for me was that I could not take any of the pain for you and I couldn’tstop the illness from taking you away from things you enjoyed. I could only be there with you.They say “a burden shared is a burden halved”. I would like to think that I helped you take some of the pain away and helped you.
All this adversity only made us stronger. We became inseparable and always leaned on each other. You were my best friend and teammate in life. Our strengths and talents complemented each other so well and there was nothing that we couldn’t accomplish! You were so smart, so beautiful, and so resilient (pretty much EVERYTHING that I wasn’t)! You always had everything under control, even when I was scared. Although our time together was shorter than most relationships, it was also so much better.
We had SOOO many more good memories than bad because you had a special talent to make everything fun! From:
- Prom. We went to McDonald’s, which is ironic because I think that was the last time…
- To Kappa parties at Westminster
- To the really really long conversations on the phone (and I hate talking AND the phone!)
- To illegally sneaking into Lindenwood dorms and houses to see me (they had weird rules about that)
- To our awesome wedding that was so hot and so fun! In typical Laura fashion, you were sooo determined to get everyone on the shuttle with the broken A/C when it was 111
degrees to get the best photos and have the greatest wedding! Mission accomplished.
- To even the simple things like walking the dogs, cooking vegan meals, all the wine and beer tastings, and going to the park to play with Maddox
- To all our friend’s weddings. You were always the best date and would somehow get me to dance!
- To all the great vacations. There are too many to mention but here are some that pop in my head…
- Ice climbing a glacier and hiking amongst bears waaay too high up a mountain in Alaska. But, the views were worth it!
- The several Mexico vacations and “adventures”
- When we got engaged on the beach. I was terrified that the Mexican authorities would find the ring at the airport or that it would get stolen while visiting the Coba Mayan ruins…
- Zipline and repelling down through the jungle
- Visiting a sketchy zoo and a tequila distillery
- Snorkling and almost getting stung by a massive stingray
- Whale watching and getting the perfect video!
- To Vegas and the grand canyon airplane ride when it was 35 mile per hour winds
- To moving into 3 different houses and decorating and making them a home.
- To adopting Maddox and getting his room ready in such a short time! I was clueless about babies, but I knew everything would be ok as long as you were in charge.
- To Christmas and birthday parties with Maddox. You loved decorating and doing the “elf on the shelf” with Maddox. You always went above and beyond to make everything so special!
- To Maddox crawling, talking (a lot), walking, and attending Casady. He learned so much
from you at an early age!
I hope your life will be a prime example for people to follow. You did everything the right way and it’s not fair what happened to you. Not worrying about the future or complaining about the past, you did the best with what you were given. You never acted like a victim. You approached each day with a positive outlook and never let anyone tell you how your life should be. Despite all the “cutting edge” treatment that you got, the biggest thing that helped you was your plant-based active lifestyle, your positive attitude, and your WILL to live. You were very stubborn and never stopped trying to improve.
It will take me some time to figure out how to live without you (especially the cooking part). Although I expected it at some point, I didn’t necessarily think it would happen RIGHT NOW. It is like half of my soul was snatched away from me. Not only emotionally, but physically and logistically. I literally do not know how to do certain things because you took such good care of our family no matter what. You were always thinking of others and had no intentions on leaving your life behind.
I promise to take care of Maddox and make sure he grows up like you want him to (writing thank you notes, taking a bath, getting a haircut, not telling fart jokes, and being a good guy). I will never forget the life that we had together. You are the strongest person I know. I love you.
Jay xoxoxoxo (how I would always sign her letters/ cards)
Janet Matthews Gordon's Remarks
I am Janice Mathews-Gordon, one of Laura’s four aunts on our side of the family. Her mother, Chris Mathews, is the oldest of us. Laura became the first grandchild in our family, and her grandparents and aunts were thrilled. Her arrival in 1984 brought great joy to our estrogen-rich family, making it that much richer.
Soon after she arrived, baptism became a question. While my sisters and I grew up rather unstructured Catholics, our Grandmother Irene was by the book: Laura needed a Catholic baptism. Since Fred and Chris planned to raise Laura with an understanding of Jewish, Catholic, and there own philosophies, the question of baptism was complicated. No Catholic priest in Oklahoma was willing to stretch that far. But when a priest in Enid, a long time friend of the family, was willing to take the leap, we drove Laura for her Catholic/notCatholic baptism. And, with a dearth of men in the family, two of Chris’s sisters, Patrice and myself, became her godmothers. No godfather. That’s the way we roll. Laura became thoughtfully but strongly independent-minded, carving out her own religious and life philosophies as she grew.
Laura was creative and talented. As a small child, her artistic flair was clearly evident. At a very early age, she was adept at painting and countless art endeavors. We all knew her beautiful, distinctive, (unmistakable as only Laura’s) handwriting. Later, she and Jay bought their first home in the village. It was amazing. As aunts and others in our generation shuffled through, we’d remark “incredible—we could so live here!”. And then there was another home, and then another, all truly lovely, characteristically contemporary, designed to a t, and always on a teacher’s budget. Her clothing and personal items followed suit. To her aunts and grandmother, it was remarkable.
There was a special, close bond between Chris and Laura. It’s played itself out in countless ways through the years. When Laura was 9, Chris and she moved to Oklahoma. During the first wild rainstorm we all know so well, their new “historic” home started to leak–everywhere. Laura and Chris ran through the house placing buckets. Then they learned how to make creative home repairs. And they wallpapered and painted. Laura painted her own room more than once, including one time making a unilateral decision that it really needed sponge painting to add some personality. And there was a dangerous cat rescue and other adventures. They also made creative projects together at Christmas including organic homemade laundry detergent, special soaps, chai tea latte mixes, homemade lip glosses and more. It almost became like a mother-daughter brand of interesting gift items for our large family. They were a mother-daughter team.
In Laura’s final months, Chris was at her side constantly. She and Jay managed round-the-clock care of Laura together, including a trip to Mexico for alternative treatment we all hoped might give Laura more time. And they both cared for bright, young Maddox too. During these months, I’ve seen the depths of a mother’s love in the most profound way: our sister Chris caring for her astounding and beautiful daughter Laura. It’s been nothing short of breathtaking.
Laura, we all love you. You will be missed in inexpressible ways.
Frederic Cohen Remarks
Laura lived most of her life in and around Oklahoma City, and I think she internalized the city’s response to the bombing of 1995. I remember that when she visited me in Florida shortly after that horrific event, she was wearing a T-shirt commemorating the victims. She was 10 years old.
My wife is in Oklahoma City for the first time and I took her to the beautiful memorial and museum dedicated to the bombing. There’s an obvious parallel between the random, senseless bombing of the city and the random, senseless attack by ovarian cancer on my precious daughter.
But something I heard in a video in the museum revealed a deeper connection. President Clinton, in a speech, said something like, “It’s how we react to what happens to us that defines who we are.”
I immediately thought of Laura. She could have reacted to her disease by wallowing in self-pity (as I probably would have done) or indulging in anger. In the 10 years after she was diagnosed, I never saw any of that. Instead, I saw someone determined to live a life of happiness and achievement.
And that is what she did. She got married; succeeded in a career as a teacher; earned a master’s degree, graduating summa cum laude; became an entrepreneur, adopted and became a wonderful mother to Maddox.
Like Oklahoma City after the bombing, Laura reacted to her tragedy with determination and confidence, courage and love. Like the city, she abhorred being thought of as a victim or being defined by a tragedy. She wanted only to live her life, and she did so with amazing dignity and grace.
And that presents a challenge: How can we live a life that honors hers? I recently heard former Vice President Joseph Biden on television saying something I plan to use as a guide. He was talking about his son, Beau, who died too young of cancer in 2015. Like me, the vice president considered his offspring a better version of himself. Biden said, “… When I get up in the morning, I think about, you know, I hope he’s proud of me. I hope he’s proud.”
Laura made us all so proud. I hope I can live the years she will never have in a way that would make her proud.
Jennifer Snider & Laura Young's Remarks
[Laura] I’m Jennifer Snider & I’m Laura Young. At Casady (In High School) we were known as “Laura-Laura-and Jennifer, unless you’re Jennifer and we were just the “Lauras”. While we don’t remember our day to day life 20 or so years ago, we definitely remember, and our journals confirmed, that the three of us were together nearly every single day.
[Jennifer] We are also fortunate enough to have remained good friends with Laura since graduation from Casady. We have watched each other graduate from different colleges, move across state lines, get jobs, get better jobs, get married, and become mothers. Ultimately, we all ended up back where we started: here in OKC, living within five miles of each other.
[Laura] Some of our most favorite memories, however, are from our first days at Casady. And all of them include Laura. Whether it was riding around in Jennifer’s purple VW bug, making up elaborate dance routines in the racquetball rooms at the YMCA after school, competing with each other over who could write the longest e-mails, making endless lists, spoofing our favorite movies with a handheld camera, and meeting for dinner several times a week at Boomerang, we always had fun no matter what we were doing, as long as we were doing it together.
[Jennifer] One of my earliest memories of Laura is also one of my favorite because it was such a “Laura” thing to do. I was a new student in January of my freshman year at Casady. A few months prior, Laura had been my designated tour guide. Upon my return to the school, Laura came up to me and said hi, and then reached into her bag and pulled out a stack of business cards she had made with her landline phone number on it. “I have a business card and my own phone. Call me!” she instructed. I instantly wanted to be friends with her.
[Laura] Laura and I were originally friends in middle school, but we became better friends after we both decided to attend Casady following the 8th grade. Most of our other friends from middle school decided to go to Bishop McGuinness, the Catholic High School down the street. One of my earliest and favorite memories of Laura was during our freshman year at Casady, when we were on break, but McGuinness still had school. We dressed in the typical McGuiness uniform of khakis and a white polo and snuck in. We told the teachers we were visiting 8th graders when asked, but hardly anyone asked. We sat in on different classes and even ate lunch with our former Westminster friends. This worked well for most of the day, and we were so giddy about our elaborate prank. Everything was going smoothly, until it came time for the students to attend mass. At this point, it became apparent that we did not belong. The nuns figured it out when we didn’t have our own seats, so we ran out of the Chapel and back home.
[Jennifer] A lot of my early memories with Laura involve singing, dancing, pranking, and teaching. Laura was such a great teacher, even back then. She always made whatever we were doing extra fun and special by coming up with tricks or songs to apply to the material. She was so smart and always willing to help me out before school with whatever math problem I wasn’t getting. She would look at the problem, say, a common Laura-ism “Jennifer, this is a piece of cheese!” She would then explain, as only Laura could, how to work it out. She taught me to drive a stick shift in her Honda civic. My favorite teaching moment with Laura comes from a time when we were on a road trip together to Mississippi to attend my cousin’s wedding. We had decided we wanted to learn the chronology of all the Presidents (as one does…). Laura put their names to different tunes on our old Nokia cell phones, and I still know that song today.
[Laura] Laura shaped who I am today, and I am a better person for having known her. After talking with friends this week everyone said that they never saw her in a bad mood. She was always positive & never complained, even though Laura definitely had reason to complain. She never let cancer define her, she was never the victim. So many people in Laura’s life never even knew she was sick. She always listened to everyone else’s stories and even when were visiting her in the hospital last week all she was concerned with was Maddox’s birthday party. She was a great mother and leaves a wonderful legacy for her son.
Going through old photos this week I found her senior picture she gave me. On the back she wrote “She is a nice person and your friend so don’t ever forget her” Laura, we love you and will never forget you.
Sarah Miller Remarks
Good afternoon. My name is Sara Miller and I’ve had the honor of being close friends with Laura for the past 18 years.
Laura and I met during our first days at Westminster College … quickly becoming fast friends and part of a close-knit family in that small Missouri town.
Beautiful … Soft spoken … Kind beyond belief … Laura had a unique gift of making everyone feel special and at ease when they were around her.
Beyond being close friends and sorority sisters, Laura and I both majored in business at Westminster so we had many classes together.
And let me tell you … she was wickedly smart! You always knew she would have the top grade on a test… and you certainly wanted her in any group project you were working on!
One of my absolute favorite memories was in college when we were both selected for the Skulls of Seven. It was tradition for Skulls not to smile and keep a serious face during our official duties. Well, as you can imagine, that was near impossible for the bubbly and always smiling Laura. So much so that she genuinely asked me one night to help her practice her serious face. It was hilarious and had me laughing for hours!
And that’s what I’ll miss most about her … just how much fun we would all have together.
Whether it was a random adventure, a crazy craft project or a good old-fashioned dance party … life was simply better with her.
When she was first diagnosed with cancer, I remember being in awe of how she handled the news. And despite the health challenges she faced and the unfair cards she was dealt, she showed that same courage, hope and strength to the very end.
To Jay, Maddox, Chris, Fred, Janet, Richard and so many others … thank you for all you did to love, support and advocate for Laura over these challenging years. You are true angels here on earth – and she so deeply loved all of you.
As I sat in my London hotel room this week, desperately searching for anything that would bring comfort to my broken heart, I came across an excerpt from a poem by David Harkins that I would like to end with today.
“You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live for yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on”
The love and friendship we all shared with Laura has made her part of each of us and that is something we must all truly cherish.
So until we meet again, my amazing friend. I love you.
Zenie McEwen Remarks
My name is Zenie McEwen and I met Laura 14 years ago. We became fast friends after realizing we shared a love for Sophie Kinsella books and doggie birthday parties! There are so many memories and stories I could share about her. She was my running buddy and my partner for laying out at the pool…back when we had time to do these things before children! After kids our activities changed but we still did much of it together leading my daughter, Cora, to become great friends with Maddox. Traditions like trick or treating, sharing our elf on shelf escapades, going to the pool, and birthday parties will be hard to do without her. But I think I will miss our daily-almost hourly-text conversations the most. We were known for sending giant, long, run-on messages, instead of short little ones. We would talk about our kids, travel plans, silly reality TV shows, workout videos and what we were making for dinner that night-I’m definitely going to miss all her healthy recipe recommendations!
What always amazed me though was that her sickness didn’t define her, she was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend and more. I would find people asking me how her health was and I realized we hadn’t talked about it in a long time-we had more important things to discuss like the tv show The Bachelor! Although we did spend time discussing her health especially when it impacted her day and how she felt, we spent most of our time talking about everyday life. I’ve picked up my phone a dozen times to text her this week before I remembered that things are different now. It will be comforting to have lots of little things around me to remind me of her and I can think about what fun we’ve had. Watching Cora and Maddox play and grow up together will be a wonderful way to keep her spirit with me. Her ability to be positive, think of others, and live life to the fullest without complaining is amazing and inspiring. I hope that I can use that as an example in my own life and as a way to always keep part of her with me.
Larry Cohen Remarks
After Laura was born, Fred often bragged that he and Chris had hit the genetic jackpot. And he was right; she was smart, she was beautiful, she was kind, she was talented. Fred often called her his Laurinni Tetrazzini, and I suspect what he subconsciously meant was that, like the dish, she was as delicious and complete a person as anyone could be. And he was right.
That is why, I am sure, despite having had less than half the time as most to do it, Laura lived such a full life.
Too many people regret not living extraordinary lives, when the goal should be to find the wonder in living a full, successful one.
How do you do that? with thanks to some wonderful writers, I’d like to borrow some of their words and match them to Laura’s deeds.
A life well lived means winning the respect of intelligent adults and the affection of children
It means calming your fears and finding your courage
getting in touch with what is real
growing things and connecting with the natural world
appreciating earth’s beauty
seeking elegance rather than luxury, worth, not wealth.
A successful life means to
study hard and think quietly,
talk gently and act boldly,
and to face your fears with bravery, an open mind and a lack of prejudice.
Living life to the fullest means being kind, telling the truth and always doing your best.
It means rescuing souls.
Exploring new paths and having fun.
and knowing that you are loved like crazy.
A full life is an exquisite work of art
it is having spent that life for something that will outlast it
It is not necessarily being among the few who changed the world, but rather, in the little corners of the world you lived in, in the lives that you’ve played a part in, it is being nothing but unforgettable.
It is leaving the world a bit better by knowing even one life has breathed easier because you have touched it
When Laura was just a baby, there was a day at her grandparents’ house in Florida when she was in my father’s lap, and for what seemed like an eternity, he had her in hysterics by making faces and weird noises at her. She laughed that adorable baby belly laugh no adult can ever get enough of, and we were a typical audience.
Laura, of course, was anything but typical. In fact, when you think about how many lives she touched, how many she had such an impact upon, it seems that her life was pretty extraordinary after all.
Trace Gordon Remarks
Here are some memories/thoughts I have with Laura….
1) In 5th grade, I switched from Westminster to Nichols Hills elementary, which had uniforms. Laura and I were both terrified I would lose my fashion sense, since all the kids dressed the same. So… Laura wrote up weekly fashion reports for me every Friday for a long time on what all the boys at Westminster were wearing, so I wouldn’t lose touch with the latest trends.
2) Laura and I idolized Bush and Alanis Morissette in around 4th-5th grade. We started a cousin band and started writing songs and rearranging existing songs. We would record them on cassettes. Our first (and only) cover was based on a TV commercial for a children’s toy – “Mr. Bucket” – that had a really catchy jingle. But we didn’t think “Mr. Bucket” was cool enough, so we changed the name to “Mr. Coolzie” and rewrote all the lyrics to something like:
“Oh Mr. Coolzie – he’s the coolest around.
Oh Mr. Coolzie – he’s the coolest in town
Oh Mr. Coolzie Mr. Coolzie Mr. Coolzie Mr. Coolzie…” – Something like that.
We also wrote several original songs, but since we were 9-10 years old, we didn’t know enough big/interesting words. So we both spent hours reading the thesaurus and discovered words like “irk” and “nemesis” that we thought sounded great. Some original songs we wrote together (and recorded – I wonder what happened to those tapes) went like this:
“Don’t you know your beginning to irk me
Everything about you is starting to hurt me
Will you ever get the poooooint? Will you ever get the point?”
“The dog, he ate my homework
I got caught in a traffic jam
The alarm clock broke and I overslept
I come up with so many excuses”
“Where has the time gone?
I’ve been dealing with your problems
Your a nemesis around
Just get outta town”
I remember more songs we wrote too… but I think that’s enough examples.
3) Laura and I became masters of swimming and treading water as kids. One summer at Camp Chaverim, when we were also around 9-10, we bet one of our counselors that we could tread water for an hour. No one believed us, and they closed the pool to everyone else to let us prove it. And we did it. The whole hour we treaded water and it was awesome to prove everyone wrong.
4) Laura and I played tons of badminton every summer as kids. We learned from our grandad Gene and our parents and aunts and uncles. We used to practice for hours on end perfecting trick shots. And we had names for our trick shots. But sometimes we would mess up on easy volleys. So we decided dark forces were at work that made us sometimes miss the birdie through no fault of our own. We called it the “Spirit of Badminton”, or SOB for short. Whenever either of us would miss the birdie/shuttlecock, we both would curse the SOB that made us miss.