Of Lemons and Lemonade

Some friends are extra special people. Take Laurie. We met in 3rd grade. We were never ‘best’ friends, but were always good friends. Remained friends through the trials of junior high, even went to the senior prom together on a double-date. I shared an apartment with her for a semester when we were seniors at college, along with two other gals. Became family after she introduced me to her “Cuz” – her first cousin, Michael – and he asked me to marry him, and became “my man.” Laurie’s mom, Ruth, even made our wedding cake.

Laurie has done some amazing things in the years after college. Went on as a professional costume designer to earn the respect of the St. Louis theater companies, worked on two major motion pictures, did some terrific commercials (remember the Budweiser commercial where the donkey dreams of becoming a Budweiser Clydesdale?) and much more than I can ever list. Married a great guy, too, and has traveled with him all over the world. Her stories about visiting Africa made it come alive.

She always has had a positive attitude, making lemonade out of lemons, as she herself put it.

Last year she got a whole truckload of lemons all at once.

Cancer. A very nasty, aggressive form of breast cancer.

Laurie sent me an email about it, and I’d like to share part of it here. She titled it, “I would Like to Share a Little Lemonade With You,” and here’s what she said:

Spent some time in the hospital, got radiation, and am setting up for potentially more chemo rounds. Have to keep a positive attitude, but it is getting harder everyday, since I am so weak and can’t do much of anything. I know I should be able to make lemonade out of this lemon called cancer, but it getting more difficult to do it lately. Today, however, I got the best lemonade of the year.

I needed to renew my driver’s license, which expired last week. I couldn’t believe it happened this year. But I guess it all happens for a reason, and mine was lemonade. With documents in hand, in Missouri this year we have to produce a passport, or birth certificate, a utility bill and surrender an old driver’s license, off to the Department of Revenue I go to stand in the long line. (It is the last day of the month, and I wasn’t the only procrastinator.)

When was the last time you came out of a government office with a smile on your face? It was the truth when I was asked about my weight. I actually weighed fifteen pounds lighter than when I had the last licensed. Guys probably don’t care, but I guarantee most every woman in the US lies about her weight on her driver’s license. This time I didn’t! Then there was the picture. They told me I could keep my hat on since I was a chemo patient, evidently the only exception to the rule. I chose to leave it off. The six year old standing with his mom behind me in line got very big eyes. I wanted to tell him they call me Yoda Girl, but didn’t figure he would understand. Guess what? It is by far the best driver’s license picture I have ever taken, and it is good for eight years.

She didn’t get to use that driver’s license for eight years. Laurie passed away Thursday evening while her husband Roy was holding her hand.

Laurie and I had talked back and forth in the last year about lemons and making lemonade, as both of us faced the ongoing challenges that cancer (in her case), and chronic illness and disability (in my case) bring. I promised her that I’d do my best to make lemonade out of her passing, if it came to this.

So here’s my lemonade: I’d rather have the pain of losing a friend and family member like Laurie, than never have had the privilege of knowing her. She made the world a better place for being in it.

Laurie Jean Trevethan, d. January 29, 2009