Remembering Laurette

A few days ago my stepmother, Laurette Schecter, passed away after a long struggle with a neurological illness.  Since her death, I have thought so much about the time we spent together.  When I was in the midst of a life struggle, she always asked questions, wanted to understand all the details, and talked me through how to cope and move on.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer right when she entered the last stage of her illness.  Since we both couldn’t visit each other, we only spoke on the phone briefly, not able to really connect or go deep into what was really going on in our lives.  It wasn’t until her death that it hit me how much I already missed her.  I started to imagine what it would have been like the past couple of months if she were healthy.  She would have been visiting me in California with my father, meeting my oncologist (who reminds me of her in some ways), and on top of every decision about my treatment.  We would have gone scarf shopping.

Just like her, I have experienced the onset of a serious, life-threatening illness.  I know what it is like to go through a series of scary testing, waiting for results that determine your fate. The experience changed my life forever, especially my relationship with death. The chemo continues to work and there is great hope to cure my cancer, but my life is still aggressively being saved. The future is not clear or guaranteed. But by feeling more intimate with death recently, I feel closer to Laurette, which is incredibly sad but gives me comfort right now. 

I was not able to attend the funeral today in Hastings. It has caused me great heartache not to be with my family.  I wrote a letter to Laurette that my sister read at the funeral.  I want to share it with you.  For those of you who knew her, I invite you to comment on this blog post with a memory of her. 

Dear Laurette,

I want to be one of the many voices today that honors the wonderful life you have lived.  You are free of illness and at peace.  We feel your strength, the energy of your being.   Your life now rests in the love you have given, and in the love we give you.

When I was a young girl, I remember walking through your house on Frazer Place, absorbing the beauty and history of the art work and photographs that lined the walls.  Your home was always a reflection of you – vibrant, spontaneous, creative, and full of love. I listened to you tell exciting stories of your past. I admired your relationships with Brooke and Eric, and how you always found a point of connection with each member of your growing family. I still can taste the delicious, fennel-and-Parmesan salad you made for many Sunday night dinners.

Laurette, my siblings and I will never forget the many trips we made with you down to Florida to visit our grandparents. We had long conversations sitting side-by-side on our beach chairs, sharing a fruit plate. You knew about all aspects of our lives and often that’s how Dad found out about what we were up to: “Ariel moved to Tennessee?” My favorite moments were when my Dad made you laugh so hard you would cry, barely able to recover so you could finish your meal.

Laurette, how caring you were.  For our wedding, in lieu of place cards you hand wrote each and every one of our guests’ names on gorgeous water-smoothed stones. (By the way, Laurette, many of our friends still have those treasured little keepsakes.) After that you knew every single name of all my friends and their partners, and you always asked about them. In recent years I invited many of these same friends to the condo to spend time with you and Dad.  A highlight was always the snack bar upstairs, but besides that, they always spoke about your exciting personality, how fun you were, how thoughtful that you had a gift for them.  Because you always had a gift for your visitors.

My illness is keeping me from being with everyone else today.  What I wish I could have said to you before, in solidarity, is that for both of us, our illnesses do not, and will not ever define our lives.  We know you as the artist, the runner, the reader, our life-long stylist, the one who enjoyed and appreciated life to its fullest.  We love you and will remember you as Laurette: our mother, grandmother, sister, teacher, and friend. 

With love,

Adina

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6 Responses to Remembering Laurette

  1. kati says:

    We still have our beautiful stone! Laurette was always so interested in getting to know me. She did ask questions and I noticed it right away because it made me feel worth-getting-to-know! When I think of Laurette, I think of bold, bright colors and laughter.
    I also loved the way she said your name, Adina. I remember her saying your name in almost every sentence she addressed to you in casual conversation. She said my name in that way too. And it made me feel like I had known her for years. I remember thinking: I want to do that. I’m going to say people’s names more. It was a small but validating thing and I really appreciated it! I’m glad I met Laurette and I’m glad she is at peace. Sending you lots of love, dear friend!

  2. Kate Ondrejko says:

    I have been thinking about ALL of you Schecters, Adina – as well as Eric and Brooke. My family sends their love and condolences to you all. I remember seeing Laurette as a kid and thinking she had such a cool, kind, hip vibe about her. I loved all her brightly colored clothes! Wishing you all comfort and love when you miss her most. xo

  3. Merida says:

    oh adina. thanks for this beautiful post. my childhood memories of laurette are of a stylish, graceful, sophisticated woman, very dedicated to her family and yours, and to the temple. I’m so sorry for your loss. please send my love to your dad and the rest of your family. thinking of you all at this time. x Merida

  4. seanslawn says:

    I’ll always remember her warm, welcoming nature. She genuinely cared about what was going on in your life and was really selfless in that way. Going over to the Schecter house from 3rd grade through high school and beyond was always a peaceful, joyful experience and Laurette was a big part of that. Love to you, your dad and the whole fam.

    Also, Adina, not sure if Elie ever sent you this but heres a video my brother made from Elie and Sherri’s wedding which shows the great extended Schecter family and a shot of Laurette

  5. Eve says:

    Adina,
    Let me start by saying you may not have physically been at the funeral, however, you were definitely there in so many ways- we all felt your presence and love. Sara read your letter so beautifully. It was heart felt by everyone; including LauLau!
    Laurette’s essence, immeasurable love and beauty, compassion, warmth, and creativity were captured in both the words spoken by family and friends, and the manner in which your dad conducted the service. Everyone’s warmth toward our family is helping us all to get through a most difficult time.
    I’m thinking of you and sending lots of love!

  6. Rachel Sayko Adams says:

    One of my first memories of Laurette was when your Dad and she hosted a dinner for your friends after the summer of 1998. As she welcomed me so lovingly into her home, I noticed a very large, blue, heart-shaped pendant on her neck. She said, “Rachel, it’s the heart of the ocean.” Of course! It was the same beautiful and vivacious necklace that Kate Winslet wore in the “Titanic” the year before. Only a bold woman could wear such a striking accessory with such grace and confidence, and Laurette was this woman. This was my first glimpse into Laurette’s vibrant soul. As I got to know Laurette more over the next 15 years, I was always touched by her sincere thoughtfulness and interest in my life. It was so apparent how much she loved you, Adina, and by extension, how much she loved all of those you cherish. My deepest love for all of you.

    Rachel

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