In Memoriam - Laure Kendrick 1954 - 2011

My last photo of Laure

Laure passed away peacefully in her sleep which is exactly how I imagined she would depart this world, only I didn't expect it to happen so soon. She was one of my dearest friends and one of the most important persons in my life, so her death this year at the end of July was a huge loss which I am still processing. In truth, I think I'm probably still in denial. I almost expect (or hope) that I will turn a corner in Carpinteria and see her or run into her at the library. 

Laure was a lifelong sufferer of epilepsy, but that never stopped her from living her life or helping others. She was a selfless, generous person who loved to volunteer, especially with Alzheimer's patients. She was also a writer. She was of the enviable kind - one who never had any real desire to be published. She just loved to write and her writing was often a personal gift. She would take the fragile recollections of her beloved Alzheimer's patients and turn them into stories which she shared with the patients and others. She also loved writing stories for children. Sometimes she wrote for children in general, but usually, she had a single child in mind and would craft a story just for him or her. And often she wrote just for herself, for the pure pleasure of it. She was old school - pen or pencil to spiral notebook (she tended to avoid the internet) and she liked to write out, not at home. Her favorites places to write were Rusty's Pizza and McDonald's. Without a trace of irony, she would matter-of-factly state, "I do my best writing at McDonald's. I feel so relaxed and at peace and my creativity just flows there," which cracked me up because I can barely stand to quickly order food at McDonald's, let alone hang out there and write. Laure was just so unpretentious and genuine and in such a charming, endearing way. Some people referred to her as "simple" or "naive" which infuriated me, because I thought she was one of the most insightful people I knew. Like Joseph in the Old Testament, she had a gift for interpreting dreams. I think because she had epilepsy and spent "time away", she had a special sensitivity to dreams and ailments such as Alzheimer's, as well as many other subjects avoided by most people. We both had a fascination with dreams and spent many hours walking around her ranch (her husband is an avocado rancher and they lived on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria) talking about dreams along with many other things as we picked fallen avocados off the ground. We also had blissful periods of shared silence as we hiked up the nearby creek when it was dry towards the foothills of Carpinteria with the ranch dogs tagging along. Some of my most joyous memories in Carpinteria were spent with her in this way.

I first met her in 1999 - she volunteered to make costumes for my play The Fool. Afterward, we stayed in touch, but it was in 2002 when our friendship really deepened. My mother passed away unexpectedly and I was overwhelmed and drowning in my grief. I somehow knew to seek her out. Her unconditional love and generous spirit were what helped me to heal. And she was there for me again in the same way in 2005 when my father passed away. 

She was spiritually the most beautiful human being that I had ever met. In my mind, the beauty and generosity of her spirit are merged and synonymous with the beauty and abundance of the avocado ranch she lived on. In the center of the ranch was a "secret" garden of sorts - a small but lush cornfield (sweet corn was grown for family and friends) which made me think of the movie Field of Dreams; vegetables of all kinds including climbing beans over a teepee made of bamboo; a random assortment of fairy-tale-type growth that included gigantic sunflowers which grew to over twelve feet and pumpkins that were several feet in diameter (I'm not exaggerating - the Carpinteria valley is one of the most fertile valleys in the world.) And around the garden and throughout the ranch were fruit trees of all kinds as well as raspberries, blackberries, a strawberry field, and ginger plants with huge yellow-orange flowers wafting an intoxicating perfume, as well as rogue tomato plants in unlikely spots (from the droppings of birds who had snacked on the garden tomatoes.) It was a magical place - I always referred to it in my mind as the Garden of Eden (before humans messed things up, of course) and it was also a healing place - and that's what it was like in Laure's presence.

Laure was one of the most spiritually significant persons in my life because it was in her presence that I truly understood the concept of grace and the goodness of God. It was with her that I truly felt and finally understood unconditional love (the agape kind.) She also taught me and inspired me to have faith during a time when I was sinking into a black pessimism and despair. Some people accomplish this through an intense study of scripture and/or prayer. I was unbelievably blessed to freely receive this through a person during one of the worst times in my life. I always thanked her, but I never did tell her what a tremendous, life-saving, transformative impact she had on me. She was the kind of person who would shrug off that sort of claim. But still I would have liked to tell her.

The last time I saw her was about a month or two before she passed away. We spotted each other by chance at the intersection of Carpinteria Avenue and Casitas Pass Road. She was walking to Rusty's Pizza to write and I had just gone to the post office on my bike and was on my way to the library. We sat down right there in front of Middle School as if it were our front lawn and chatted. Nothing indicated to me that I would never see her again. Then we walked down Carpinteria Avenue together to our respective destinations. I watched her walk into Rusty's Pizza just happy to have run into her and pleased to see she was going to do something that she loved in one of her favorites places to write in Carpinteria. Then off to the library I went, not realizing this would be our last physical encounter.

Laure didn't care much for having her picture taken, so the last (and only) picture that I personally took of her was taken the last time we went to the Avocado Festival together. We had just eaten some food and listened to some music and then walked down to the end of Linden Avenue to look at the sunset. I asked to take her picture. She said I could, only if I would "get it over with quickly." So without much ado, I quickly snapped a picture and then I sat down next to her. By the time we got there, the sun had already set and so we were left with the twilight. 

I will miss Laure terribly and I know intellectually that I will never see her again, but in truth I see her everywhere and will forever whenever I experience joy or see beauty. She was truly a gift and blessing from God.

Twilight at Carpinteria Beach with Laure

(Posted 12/30/2011)