Remembering Lauren
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Remembering Lauren: Our Miracle Child

Candace Neale-May
October 13, 2000

Right from the start, our Lauren Shelby made an impact on lives all around her. She was not a quiet soul! Lauren came into the world as a wild surprise and she left just as unexpectedly and dramatically. Lauren was always fast and she was always tough.

I will share more of her personality and soul later, but first, I must tell her story, because it is one that tells of the profound gift of life with all of its struggles, beauty and love. It also tells of our need to do our best each and every day, and to soak in as much of the good as we can, while giving our best to overcoming not only our own problems and inadequacies, but to extend ourselves the best we can, every day to those around us who need or could simply use our love. We live in a tough world and so we just need to learn, as Lauren would say, to "suck it up."

After our first beautiful child Kimberly was born, I had several surgeries for various female-related tumors. We wanted Kym not to be an only child, and tried everything to give birth to another after all the incredible joy Kym had brought into our lives. We decided to adopt, and were forunate enough that 15 year old girl knew how to give of herself enough to choose the gift of life, and give the world our wonderful son Gregory. This was not easy for this 15 year old, but she brought Greg through six months of pregnancy and delivered our family a 3 lb., 2 oz. boy; yet another gift of life. The four of us were very happy and contented as a family.

God had some unexpected plans! I started feeling ill, and thought I was having early menopause due to my surgeries. They laughed when I was given the results of my tests, saying I was pregnant! What a shock. This little girl came out of an eighth of an ovary which I had left and fought her way like crazy through all the scar tissue. That was Lauren! -- the only little one who could muscle her way through.

I was older for having a baby, and should have known better, since life was precious to me, but I wanted to be assured, rather than living in faith, and so I had an amniocentecis. When told Lauren would have a problem called chromosome 21, I was advised to abort her, since she would have severe mental retardation and severe facial abnormalities. I wanted her to be gone from our "perfect little" family. I just could not abort her, as I had already been taught how precious life is. The months that followed were filled with fear and pain, but lots of prayers were said on her behalf, and love came from all over. Lauren was born with just 3 pushes and less than an hour of labor. A perfect baby girl, and of course fast in the coming!

There was never any control that I felt with Lauren, only profound unconditional love. Even as a little girl, she would run in every direction. Lauren taught me that we are not in control of anybody or anything in this life. Lauren loved touch. She used to breastfeed for hours, and so we were very close right from the start. I spent hours with her at the breast, since that is what calmed her so.

As Lauren grew into a beautiful young child, she had long, red, golden, curly hair. People would continually come up and just touch it. She was always on the run. She had to have her tonsils out at age four since she had sleep apnea. We got her all ready and she was on the stretcher ready to go to surgery. The surgeon said "OK, let's go." Lauren said "I want my mom!" They said "She'll see you later." Well, Lauren jumped of the gurney, ripped off her gown and ran down the hall naked. I had to run after her humiliated and humbled and bring her back to hold her down, while the doctor put her to sleep with an injection and then threw her on the gurney. We simply all had to laugh, since no one had ever seen anything like that one before.

It was in first grade that we had to have Lauren tested, since she couldn't learn to read. She was diagnosed with ADHD. We found Lauren a tutor and her reading was up to perfect speed within months. Lauren worked very hard on her studies. She was exceptionally bright, as many other ADHD children are, but it took more energy for her to be able to stay still and concentrated, than anyone could ever imagine.

What Lauren did excel in was sport. It was the perfect outlet for her boundless energy. She was simply a great athlete. It was not just that she was talented, she had the soul of an athlete. Because she often felt excluded or different socially, this was a place she could give, excel, and be accepted. She loved team sport, although she also loved to ski, play golf and fish. She was tough and would give it her all in each game. She was funny, because she somehow would know through her exceptional observational skills, all the traits of the pros, and mimic them. Even her stance on the fields was like those of the pros.

Lauren loved to cook, and from age 5 on she was a gourmet, and could cook complete meals without a recipe. Her presentation was beautiful. Lauren would many times bring me breakfast in bed, on a tray with china and silverware, and linens and even have fresh flowers she had cut from the garden. She loved flowers, and when little, when I gardened, she would never leave my side, always throwing in the bone meal with each planting. Lauren would cook meals for me on her own when I worked late, and would serve me dinner with candles lit and a glass of wine poured. She just loved to make me happy. She was like this with all she loved. She gave to us way more than we could ever give back!

Lauren struggled in her middle school years. She could not fit into the perfect mold that we demand of everyone here in the Silicon Valley. She was such a character, that she could not be poured into that perfect mold. She was working on patience and respect and having "appropriate" behavior and was making great strides on her weaknesses.

Another aspect of Lauren's life that you may not know of, is that she gave of her heart to those less fortunate. At age 3, she helped in building a center for the deaf in Jamaica, and at age 11, she helped rebuild churches in Russia. Just last summer, she worked in Kenya without electricity or running water to build a polytechnical institute for and with students her own age. These were some of her fondest memories. She really enjoyed these trips more than traditional travel and beach vacations, which she of course loved too.

We selected New Hampton School in New Hampshire for her high school years. Lauren was very brave in going off to boarding school, but did so with determination to succeed, which she was doing. She had all A's going for her at the time of her death. We selected New Hampton, since it was a school that had a learning support program as well as a great athletic and arts program. It believes that we all learn in different ways. Its motto is, "In a world that expects us to fit in, we teach you to stand out." In just four short weeks, Lauren was thriving in that loving community. She was determined to make it to the top, and was going to be starting a sports radio program for the school on the Saturday after her death.

Lauren died unexpectedly, doing what she loved, playing soccer in the beautiful fall foliage of New England, surrounded by a team, coaches, teachers, and friends she dearly loved and who truly loved her. She had made it! Although her dreams were not fulfilled as she had written in her self eulogy just a few weeks prior to her death, she had learned and taught all who came into contact with her what God had in his mighty plan for her. She lived life to the fullest and she loved and she gave, and went as she came, in His timing.

My last lullabye to Lauren:

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are grey.
You'll never know, Dear, how much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

The other night, Dear, when I lay sleeping,
I dreamt I held you in my arms.
But when I woke, Dear, I was mistaken
so I bowed my head and I cried.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are grey.
You'll never know, Dear, how much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.