One of the first poems that Laura shared with me was Caminante by Antonio Machado. It begins:
Traveler, your footsteps
are the road, and nothing more:
traveler, there is no road,
the road is made as you walk.
This was also the poem that Kathy Stucy read at Laura's funeral.
When I first met Laura, she was in a very down period of her life. After chasing around the country to be with her first husband, she had lost a promising academic career. When Laura picked herself up and started law school, he left her. I met her when she applied for a job at the state agency in Trenton where I was working. She was looking for a job because things were not going well on her job at a Philadelphia law firm. Despite these troubles, the more I came to know Laura, the more I sensed an outlook that she would carry on. Any bitterness or regrets would not consume her or stop her. I still have some stationery she had printed up in case she had to go into law practice on her own out of her house in Mt. Airy. We really got to know each other when her car was in the shop for repairs, and she asked me for a ride to work since I lived nearby in Chestnut Hill. I still remember calling her one evening to confirm the time for the next day’s drive. When I asked her what she was doing, she said that she’d been playing the piano all evening. That picture of Laura at home alone entertaining herself on the piano remains with me.
Daisy Abel took a picture of Laura at her piano 15 years later in July 2009 during the period between the surgery to reduce the tumor mass and the start of stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). It’s hard to say which was more stressful, Laura’s three-day stay in the recovery room after surgery or the three-week delay in starting SRS. Once again Laura carried on playing the piano. In the picture, we can see Laura looking intently at the music. She had to look more closely than usual because her tumor had cut off almost all her vision on the right. Her knitted cap, which she almost never took off after the July surgery, is sitting on top of the pile of music on the side of the piano. After all it was July.
Laura could be very acerbic and demanding, but never mean. Still, even or especially in the midst of adversity, she could focus on play in a way that conveyed an innate joy in living. We tend to think of comfort as something soft. We tend to think of strength as something hard. But the word “comfort” originally meant to make strong. Laura’s comfort in playing the piano during bad times gave her strength. Music was not an escape. It was exercise. It was serious play, child’s play, practice in living comfort and developing strength.
YOU ARE READING
Not right, nor orderly.Non-Fiction
The phrase "not right, nor orderly" comes from John Donne's poem, "An Anatomie of the World," written on the first anniversary of "the untimely death of Mistress Elizabeth Drury," the 14 year old daughter of his patron, Sir Robert Drury. The poet u...