Remembering Laura Each and Every Day ~

Exactly ten years ago today—on February 21, 2009—we were told what no parent should ever have to hear.

“Your daughter has suffered irreversible brain damage. She is not responding to pain. She is legally brain dead.”

The pediatric neurosurgeon’s words hit my brain, and I went numb. Our daughter Laura Miller—only fourteen years old—had died. Our worst nightmare had come true. It didn’t seem possible that something so tragic could happen so suddenly. She had been in her freshman year high school classes on Tuesday afternoon, stopped breathing on her own by Wednesday evening, and three days later declared dead. Life wasn’t supposed to work this way—and especially not for our family. We had naively believed that we were somehow protected from life’s tragedies. How wrong we had been.

Within hours we would leave the hospital and go home without our oldest daughter. Inconceivable. How could a cancerous brain tumor have killed so suddenly and with little more warning than a few weeks of headaches? But that’s exactly what had happened.

I still hear the agony during those first few days, in my husband’s bitter refrain. “We were robbed of a third of our lives. We were robbed,” his voice had quivered with anger and disbelief. He had understood sooner than me about the many future milestones that would be stolen from us—the expected parental joys of seeing our daughter mature into the amazing woman we knew she would become.

My husband and I didn’t want to live our next fifty years without Laura. This prospect seemed a cruel contrast to the relatively idyllic lives we had been living just one week ago, but we didn’t have a choice. Not really. We had two younger daughters to parent. We couldn’t sacrifice their future lives for something that couldn’t be undone. We forced ourselves to take one day at a time, one decision at a time.

And, now, it is ten years later. How did that come about? How did our family—how did I—survive a decade without Laura by my side? I like to think, especially on this most difficult anniversary date, that she has not strayed far from us. Her memory and her kind spirit embedded in everything we do and everything we are.