Thoughts by Laraine's Dear Cousin Carol
They say we grow accustomed, as we age, to the deaths of friends and relatives. Perhaps this is true of many, but like much conventional wisdom it has not been true for me. The woods are beginning to thin around me, but I am still shocked as every tree falls, and mourn it. This was brought home to me again last Friday morning, when I received a phone call from my cousin Dick, with the terrible news that his sister, Laraine had been killed. I was so shocked by the news that I felt my legs turn to water. No, this could not be. Not Laraine.
I had only just seen her back in December, when she drove down to my house in Charleston, South Carolina, with her friend Maureen. I couldn't get over how great she looked and how happy she seemed. It was very important to Laraine that she visit with Aunt Mary, who is 96 years old, at the nursing home. The irony of that visit is something she said. She said she wanted to spend special alone time with her as it would be her last visit; that she doubted Aunt Mary would be alive when she came this way again.
The time we spent together was so special that I remember every detail of it. Walking the streets of downtown Charleston, taking a boat ride out to Fort Sumter, where the first shot was fired beginning the Civil War, driving to a beautiful old, Southern plantation and walking through the gardens and a large cypress swamp; we even managed to get to the beach and walk along the shore. We ate, drank, and were merry! We had long talks, shared memories, and laughed. We filled a great deal into those few days.
Laraine had brought me a really good bottle of red wine that she said she and Ed had discovered and she wanted me to have it to save for a special occasion. I thought her visit was special occasion enough, and so I opened the bottle. Along with the wine, she brought me a photograph of herself with Zoe. It is such a great photo, that I later had it framed and placed on a table in my front hall.
The visit ended much too quickly, but Laraine and Maureen wanted to spend two days down in Savannah, Georgia, before they parted ways. Maureen to fly back to South Glastonbury, and Laraine to continue the drive down to Florida, where she planned to spend three months with her parents before leaving on a three month bicycle trip that was to begin in California, and end back in Florida. She was very excited at the prospect of the bike trip, and couldn't wait to show me her bicycle when she first arrived.
A few weeks later, I received a package in the mail, with that familiar scrawl I recognized instantly as that of Laraine's. I was both shocked and delighted with its contents. A beautiful quilt Laraine had made for me. That was Laraine. Giving, thoughtful, kind, and caring. Laraine cared. I cannot believe I am even writing this. I wish Laraine were still here, but since she isn't, I am so glad I have so many wonderful memories, a photo on a table in my front hall, and a quilt hanging on my wall, that Laraine put together for me. I will always cherish them. I will miss our visits, our long, philosophical telephone conversations, but most of all, dear, wonderful, sweet cousin, I will miss you.
Ed received a very kind letter from one of the cyclists on the cross-country trip after Laraine's tragic death. Here is an excerpt from that letter:
" One incident that affected me was when Laraine was riding behind me and observed that my camelback ( a water bladder/drinking device you wear on your back ) seemed to her too low and off center. She asked me if she could adjust it for me. I said I would truly appreciate it as I had a nagging pain in my right shoulder. We stopped, she shortened and fixed the straps the way she thought it should be, I put it back on and we set off again. It made all the difference in the world ! The pain in my shoulder stopped and I am wearing it when I ride just as she set it. Her comment when I told her what a wonderful change she had made was that she " just couldn't help commenting on something when she thought she could help ".