Holidays Have New Meaning for Me

Today’s the Fourth of July. We all know the significance of the Fourth. I’m afraid to admit I have never found the “bombs bursting in air” to be a happy, joyful event to celebrate. Even as a kid the day did not resonate for me. That is not to say how much I appreciate the service of many who have sacrificed portions of their lives or have given their lives to protect our freedoms. But this year is especially difficult.

On Friday, July 1st, unexpectedly I lost a dear friend of decades. Laurel Soeby Dannen was a remarkable woman. She was well-read and could carry on an intelligent conservation with anyone on any topic. When my father was alive and wondered about what was going on in town, he would say, “Go ask Laurel. She’ll know.” And she would.

Her friends and sons had no warning of how ill she was. When she was rushed to the hospital a week ago for endoscopic surgery, she remained chipper and told everyone to be positive. That attitude is so Laurel. She’d want to fix problems for all of her community and find an upbeat direction or reason for anyone’s dilemma. IF she knew how ill she was, she would never complain.

For several years she held a fashion show to raise money for free mammograms for women in our coastal community who couldn’t afford one. She and I had a secret walking campaign to eliminate tansy ragwort lining the roads and vacant lots. We took pride in our project. That’s our girl! I mean, that WAS our girl. She will leave a huge hole in our lives.

She leaves 2 beloved sons, Ben and Dan and 2 grandsons as well as a community with their mouths agape in disbelief. She was always stalwart and industrious, kind and caring and wouldn’t want to burden anyone with any pain she was in. So we didn’t know. (We wanted to know, Laurel.)  When I drive past her store that was her love and life besides her family, I feel a huge hole and tears come easy.

What’s left of our friendship? —memories of breakfast on Sunday mornings at the crack of o’dark thirty, the gift ideas she’d share with our spouses, the years of walking at 5:30 am, and her friendly greeting when I popped in the store.

The date she passed was her birthday, so like her to want a note of drama at the end. She was never dramatic.

Holidays — all of them, have taken on a new resonance. Actually, every day is an opportunity. Don’t miss one day loving those around you and smiling at a stranger or greeting a senior citizen. Every day is to be treasured.

The only solace I can find is that her cancer took her quickly, and she did not have to suffer all that goes with it. Good-bye, dear friend. We’ll miss you.