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Life with Laura
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Below are the 19 most recent journal entries recorded in John Lustig's LiveJournal:

    Sunday, May 23rd, 2004
    5:59 pm
    The Good Side of Being Human
    I only enjoyed [Laura's] company on a few occasions, but you are right that she was a joy. It seemed to me as if she embodied all the very wonderful, joyful and giving aspects of being human and somehow missed being given some of the things that make us humans NOT always so wonderful to be around. My deepest condolences are with you and Shelagh and Caitie! --Roberta Gregory
    5:47 pm
    Queen of My Heart

    Laura brought great joy to my heart when I was sad...Laura will always be...queen of my heart. --Claira Geller
    Monday, May 17th, 2004
    9:18 pm
    Summer Lovin'
    I remember the summer I spent at your house teaching Laura & learning so much from the three of you about love, patience and joy. I loved being able to watch her grow up when I’d see her at Wedgwood [school.] she seemed so happy. I’m certain she’s smiling down on all of us. -- Debbie
    9:12 pm
    Rooted in Love
    I first joined Assumption six years ago...Although I was nervous about changing parishes, Assumption was my new neighborhood parish, and I wanted to give it a try.
    Laura allayed my fears. She reached out to me (literally!) and later to my newborn daughter…I would look for her and Caitie after mass, just so I could talk with them for a moment.
    Laura & Caitie both lit up when they saw us, and we felt great about that…It was location that brought us to Assumption. It was Laura who rooted us here. Thank you, thank you. With love, --Alex & Shivana
    9:00 pm
    In Our Hearts

    From Claira & Juju Geller
    8:29 pm
    Bus Bliss
    …I want you to know how Laura was part of our morning routine. Each day as we put Kelley on the bus, Laura would greet us with a smile and a wave. We all had to say good morning to her before Kelley got in her seat. We are all going to remember her shining smile on the bus…--Leslie, Mike, Kelley and Sean
    8:21 pm
    No pickles, please!
    Laura was a very, very special girl. I work in the lunchroom and she would brighten my day everyday when she would come in with her big beautiful smile and hold my hand to say hello. She would show me her tuna fish sandwich and always be so proud of it. I would tease her and say, “Ask your mom to put pickles in your tuna fish.” And she would laugh and laugh. She thought that was pretty funny! I will miss her dearly!! My thoughts are with you and your family always. – Maria
    8:19 pm
    Laura's birthday
    Well, it's been a long, long time since I posted anything new. Sorry. I couldn't let today pass, though, without posting a few thoughts about Laura. Today would have been her 11th birthday. I don't want to get maudlin here and this Live Journal is meant to be a celebration of her life. So I'll just say that we miss her terribly. Nothing eloquent today. (Not by me at least.) I'll leave that for others who've come to the party.

    That's right--party.

    Oh, sure. The Birthday Girl herself won't be able to attend, but we've still got some nice memories and thoughts that her friends have shared with us in letters. And memories such as these are the best birthday presents of all.

    Happy birthday, Laura.
    Saturday, February 14th, 2004
    9:44 pm
    Friend of the Cyclops

    Note from John: Tommy Nast is the 13-year-old brother of Alexis Nast, a good friend of my other daughter, Caitie. Laura always got along great with all the siblings (always boys!) of Caitie's friends. Here's Tommy's letter:

    Once, at Halloween, I was dressed up [at school.] During the same Halloween Laura, along with a small army of her friends, came to my school to play games that we set up.

    I spotted Laura and waved. She gave a small smile, but didn’t wave. I was surprised and slightly put out she didn’t hug me AND she looked at me like I was very, very weird.

    A short time later I realized that she had seen my costume, a one-eyed Japanese cyclops, and believed it was real. I took off my mask and she smiled her huge, bright smile and hugged me and patted my arm.

    --Tommy Nast

    9:33 pm
    Hundreds of kids, but...
    I have met hundreds of children at Wedgwood School, but I have never met one that touched me as much as Laura. She was a beautiful angel sent to us to brighten our day.

    I was in the lunchroom when Room 21 was having their individual student pictures taken in the fall. Laura was so cooperative with her huge smile. Kathy was posing her, combing her hair to get the picture just right. Laura was having a ball and it was so much fun to watch. And it worked. It is a beautiful picture.

    Thank you for bringing Laura into my life. She was so fortunate to have a loving, caring and supportive family such as yours. God bless you all. – Bonnie Melnik, Wedgwood Elementary secretary

    9:05 pm
    9:01 pm
    Letters from kids
    Note from John: After Laura died, the staff at Wedgwood Elementary School in Seattle set up a table where students could leave notes and pictures for Laura’s family. Here’s the first of many:

    Laura was a wonderful and cute girl. No matter what, she always had a smile on. She was one of the happiest girls I had ever seen. Whenever I walked past her when I was upset I would see her smile, and I would be happy again. Even though she has [passed away] that smile will never leave her beautiful face.

    8:58 pm
    Yes, there is a reason for all this
    Note from John: I honestly don’t know if anyone is reading this Live Journal. I hope so. Because there’s a basic message of hope in the hundreds of letters we’ve received. Laura made a difference in people’s lives. Sometimes a small difference. Sometimes a huge difference.

    I know it’s easy to give into despair. In a world as huge and complex as ours, how can anything we do really matter? For me, Laura was the answer. She proved that one person—even a 10-year-old child with multiple disabilities—can make the world better and people happier. And, if she can do it, maybe the rest of us can do it too.

    Tuesday, February 3rd, 2004
    11:16 pm
    What I learned in school
    [This letter was written to Laura Jan. 19, 2004--two days after Laura's death--by one of her former teachers at Wedgwood Elementary.]

    Dear Laura,
    I want to tell you how special and important you’ve been to my life. I clearly remember you as a pre-schooler – you were the one who always smiled and always waved to me.
    As luck would have it I was soon one of your teachers. I immediately felt a bond and affection for you. You were always so happy and so positive and that wonderful smile touched my soul and spirit.
    As I worked with you I know how hard things were for you. We worked slowly together and I marveled at how hard you tried – you really wanted to succeed.
    I especially remember when you went to Ms. Melton’s room for inclusion. I told you that you were big and could walk by yourself. You weren’t so sure – you gave me a hug and walked to the room. I walked you each time and as you became more comfortable you’d always stop by the door, wave, smile and then go in. Laura, you always made me feel so good inside.
    It amazed me how much you loved life and your love for life bounced off and touched everyone – especially me. The last year has been an especially difficult one for me. Yet, every time I saw you and you tugged at my arm you made me feel special. Whenever I saw you and you smiled at me I just couldn’t help but smile back. Laura, dear Laura, you reminded me about the good things in life. I was, especially this year, constantly inspired and uplifted by you. Your smile, determination, appreciation of people, and friendship will always remain with me.
    I am so happy that I have such wonderful memories of you. I marveled at how grown up and independent you became in RM 21. You also touched my heart when you took your friend Peter’s hand at recess and walked with him. Oh yes, there was always that special hug for Peter, too. =)
    Laura I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ll miss you. I feel, though, that I’m a better person because of you. Really, you’ve always been like an angel. Now you are an angel. I believe in heaven and I know that’s where you are. I also believe that you’ll always be a part of our lives. I know that when I struggle with life’s obstacles I shall remember your strength, smile and love of life, and these qualities which you so beautifully possessed will help me…
    I will miss you! Take care – I know you’ll continue to be happy. --Janice =)
    10:41 pm
    John Lustig: We've had numerous requests about where people can send contributions in memory of Laura. Contributions aren't necessary, but are certainly appreciated. We picked two organizations. The first is Wedgwood Elementary--the school Laura was currently attending. It's a public school (and a damn fine one), but Special Education classes are often at the bottom of the financial budget barrel in this school district. But not this time. All money that is donated to Wedgwood in Laura's name will go to the Special Education program. The second organization is Boyer Children's Clinic where Laura received therapy and went to preschool from age 1-3. Both Boyer and Wedgwood were wonderful experiences for Laura as well us (her parents.) Here are the addresses: Wedgwood School, 2720 N.E. 85th St., Seattle, WA 98115; or to Boyer Children's Clinic, 1850 Boyer E., Seattle, WA 98112.
    Sunday, February 1st, 2004
    5:29 pm
    Blood Buddies
    [Note from John: Every three weeks for the last six years of her life, Laura would go to Children’s Hospital in Seattle and get a transfusion of immune globulin (a blood product) to help boost her immune system. It was generally about a two and a half hour process. Laura quickly got used to the process and was her usual social self.]

    …My name is Joe and I’m the father of Alex, who was a fellow patient on IV/IG day at Children’s. I was flipping through the morning paper and Laura’s [obituary] picture jumped out…I never knew her last name, but I definitely knew her smile.

    The Million dollar smile. Every three weeks I anxiously awaited the arrival of our buddy, Laura. Every time, without fail, she would look around for Alex and me. And, just as you said [at the memorial service about her comforting people in pain] she would come over and tap Alex’s arm to let him know she was there and to let him know he’s doing fine. She could say more in a smile, with the love in her eyes, than anyone could say in words.

    When I first met her, I saw this beautiful, happy, little angel. I remember waving to her through the window at the sink—just a little hand wave. She would wave back, with that priceless smile, and my heart would melt. She had that gift, that pure expression of love and happiness that was a sight to behold.

    Each trip, I waited for her arrival, because I knew I would feel better just by seeing her smile. She had the gift—She is the gift! She is the expression of God’s love for all to see.

    My wife, Linda, who had never had the luxury of meeting Laura was quite affected by the news. She never met her, but she surely knew of her because I would talk about her every IV/IG day. She knew Laura, without even seeing her.

    My daughter, Sarah, misses her. She only met once, but she saw in Laura the beauty we saw. And Laura gave the signature greeting, patting her on the arm. Sarah couldn’t help but be affected.

    Alex will miss his little buddy, Laura. We feel blessed and honored to have known Laura and her family. She touched our souls, and will always remain in our hearts.

    May God bless you and your family. —Joe, Linda, Sarah & Alex
    5:20 pm
    Laura in Our Hair
    My name is Jessica, I’m the receptionist at [a Seattle haircut salon for kids.] I just wanted you to know that for the small part she played in my life, Laura made a big impact. Over the years we would get so excited every time we saw her name on Sheila’s schedule. We just knew that she would come in with that beautiful smile and giggle that always brightened our days! Being around Laura, you knew you were around someone special. There’s no doubt she had this effect on many, many people in her life. To say the least, she will be missed. My heart and thoughts are with your family. --Love, Jessica
    5:15 pm
    Meeting Laura
    I was leaving the Holy Names Spring Concert when Caitie called to me, “Molly, do you want to meet my sister?” Did I ever! Thanks to several long bus rides to and from track practice, Caitie had described Laura to me. My impression was that she was a bright-eyed joy, and I was quite keen on meeting her.

    Caitie made her way down the aisle, clutching her sister’s hand as she went. When we met, Caitie said, “Laura, this is Molly.” Laura looked at me then, with this incredible happiness that made me smile. She grinned from ear to ear, but inched every closer to her big sister, who obviously knew this stranger before her. As she sized me up, Laura must have noticed that Caitie and I wore matching choir dresses. She took a light hold of the shirt of Caitie’s dress, and then pointed at mine. I asked if she wanted one, too, so we’d all match, and she made a face. (I couldn’t blame her.) Caitie started talking then, but I don’t remember what she said; I was watching Laura’s face. She stared at Caitie as though she was a goddess, with such admiration in her eyes that mine almost teared up. Then Shelagh came over, and Laura’s eyes bounced back and forth from her mom, to her sister to that weird girl whose dress matched Caitie’s.

    Then Caitie waved, Shelagh winked, and Laura grinned as we said good-bye and went home. I spoke to Caitie the next day and we spoke of Laura, but I didn’t mention what I saw in her eyes that night. I had a feeling Laura loved her family so much, Caitie already had an idea of what I saw. -–Molly Downes--

    [Note from John: Because it’s nearly impossible to contact everyone who wrote to me and my family, I haven’t received permission to re-print most of the letters that will be appearing here. I’m sure most (maybe even all) of the kind folks who wrote to us, would be happy to have their letters here. However, I want to respect everyone’s privacy and so I’m only printing last names when I’ve received specific permission. Molly kindly gave her permission and so her full name appears here. If I use your letter and you’d like to have your full name used (or you’d like your letter removed), please contact me:]
    12:53 am
    Every life has meaning. But how can you truly understand how one person’s life affects others? Looking out at the 500 or people or so who attended my daughter’s memorial service on Jan. 21, 2004, I thought I knew. Since then, I’ve come to realize that Laura affected far more people than I suspected. Often Laura’s impact was as simple and transitory as the surprised smile that came over the faces of strangers when she grinned and waved to them. For others, it was much more profound.
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