I didn't know her well. We worked for the same children's health system, but in different buildings, so Laura and I only saw each other occasionally. When I retired and began doing some freelance writing for Nemours, she was my supervisor, handing out assignments. Even then, we had very little interface. I would complete writing projects and send them back to her We became Facebook friends and I loved reading about her two teenagers, husband in the highway patrol, their dogs and family vacations.
Then in June of last year, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Laura was upbeat about the whole thing, sure she could beat it. She posted all the details of her treatment to Facebook, needle biopsies, MRIs, X-rays, CT scans and blood tests. Her sometimes crazy sense of humor was on full display as she wrote about getting fitted for a radiation mask, being in unrelenting pain, losing her hair and coping with the unpleasant symptoms of treatment. A wonderfully gifted writer, she was not shy about posting her opinions about the state of politics in our country. She urged all of us to create lasting memories with our families--to go places and do things together.
Eventually, the news got much worse. She and her family jammed in as many vacations and trips to the beach as possible when she was feeling up to it. She kept working for a while, but soon had to leave her job of 17 years. A meal train was set up for her family while Laura was in and out of the hospital, getting more and more treatments in an effort to stop the spread of her cancer. Then she was in a wheelchair, using oxygen and sleeping in a hospital bed at home. Although I knew the end would come soon, I nearly jumped out of my chair in shock when I read a Facebook message from her sister that Laura had died.
I've wondered why I would become unglued about the illness and death of someone I didn't know very well. Perhaps it was the memory of my brother Pete's death from pancreatic cancer eight years ago. Maybe it was the utter unfairness of taking a beautiful hard-working mom in her mid-forties away from her husband and children just when they needed her most.
I was at my daughter's house for our weekly family dinner when I saw the message and when I looked at Alison and Hannah and realized they are the same age as Laura. A chill went through me, knowing that this could happen to anyone. I think the isolation and uncertainty of the pandemic has us all on edge, not to mention the recent upheaval around the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the upcoming presidential election and what it could mean for the future of our country.
I'll repeat Laura's message here. Get out and live life (as much as possible these days). Keep your sense of humor no matter what. Enjoy all the times with your family and friends that you can. Vote like your life depends on it.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.