In Honor of Lavern

This dear woman and friend is now in the hospital, very near the end of her life.  I just thought you’d like to know her story.

For 15 years she has raised a daughter with severe autism and mental retardation.  Her daughter is not able to speak or communicate in any way.  Her daughter is tall and strong and needs supervision and care 100% of the day and night.  But Lavern has dedicated her life to this task alone (she has just one family member here in the U.S.) and has almost no funding.  I have never known a woman more dedicated to motherhood, more dedicated to patience and charity, more dedicated to maintaining the faith and strength that she needed to carry on being a good mother, despite the greatest challenges you could imagine.  Every single person who knows Lavern would say that they truly have never seen anything like it.

Due to a very unfortunate circumstance, Lavern is now dying of cancer.  2 years ago she had a lung scan that showed some early (treatable) cancer in her lungs, but this information was never communicated to her until a very forthright doctor discovered the mishap two years after the fact.  By then, her cancer had become Stage 4 and had spread to her brain and many other organs. 

For the last many months, she has been fighting for every breath, for every moment to continue caring for her daughter.  When I Ieft for travels recently, I wept, not knowing if I would see her again. She held my hand and held my face from her hospital bed, unable to speak.  She dried my tears, wanting to comfort me and serve me as she has done so many times for me and so many others in the 12 years that I have known her here in Brooklyn.  I told her thank you for being so good to me.  And thank you for loving me.  I told her she was like a mother to me in Brooklyn.  And that my greatest wish was that she could feel God’s love with her, even surrounding her bed there in the ICU.  She wrote down on paper that she would take that as parting words.  As I walked away, I wept inside.  For this woman has taught us all how to love more.  She has taught us how to mother.  And how to truly live a life dedicated to the Divine.  Even in moments of sickness and tremendous need, she still manages to serve us all right back and uplift, comfort, inspire, and look after us.  I’m grateful for the exchange of love and sisterhood that we have felt- the kind that can only come from serving each other – the kind that binds us together- the kind that makes you realize there is something greater than us all at work within us.

These women in the top picture are just a sampling of some amazing women who have served Lavern and her daughter in the last many months and years, more than you can ever imagine.  It has been one of the most beautiful and heartfelt experiences of our lives to now care for her in her last days.  It is truly an honor to be a part of community of women who seek to offer this kind of love and make it a daily practice of their lives.  I feel closer to them as well, because of this experience.  My heart can hardly take the beauty of what I’ve seen. 

Have you had an act of service (given or received) result in a binding friendship that maybe otherwise would not have existed – or perhaps transcended what it would have been otherwise?  I really do think a friendship that has it’s roots in charity is capable of being one of the best kinds we could ever have. 

Also, Lavern’s story made the cover of The Daily News in January.  Her case may potentially help change a bill, which could provide some potential recourse for victims of medical malpractice in New York State.  The Daily News just ran the 5th article on the story a few days ago. 

(Top photo by Jeff Bachner, for The Daily News.) 

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  1. Sharlee February 27, 2013 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Absolutely beautiful and inspiring,Mara. Thanks so much for sharing. One question though, what will happen to her daughter now?

    • mara February 27, 2013 at 7:37 pm - Reply

      The aunt, an older woman, is currently assigned to be the guardian. Though if someone wanted to adopt the daughter or be her guardian, I think it would be welcome.

  2. Alyssa February 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    Prayers for her and for you. My best friend was just diagnosed with cancer that will likely be what kills in 10-15 years (she's 23.) My heart breaks for you and it breaks for all those facing cancer, directly or indirectly.

  3. Rochelleht February 27, 2013 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    That is so touching, I can hardly stand it. I am very concerned about her daughter. Who will care for her? As a special needs mom, with so many resources and extended family, I can't imagine being in Lavern's situation. I am so sad. Please let us know. Is there anything I can do?

    • mara February 27, 2013 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      Oh – thank you so much. The mother's aunt, a single older woman with no resources, family,funds, and poor health is currently assigned to be the daughter's guardian. If any other family wanted to adopt the girl or be her guardian, I think it would be welcome. If you know of anyone, let me know.

    • Anonymous February 28, 2013 at 7:08 am - Reply

      Can't you guys adopt her?

  4. Lauren February 27, 2013 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    This is beautiful, Mara. I know exactly what you mean about friendship born out of charity, as I experienced this several years ago when I was very sick with Lyme disease. A friend of a friend, who is a stay at home mom, heard about my illness and showed up at my house with a week's worth of home cooked meals. I think I had only met her one or two times before this. To this day, I can't help but love her for her great love and care for my family in our time of need.

    • mara February 27, 2013 at 7:43 pm - Reply

      how beautiful. Somehow, being fed in your time of need could be one of the most beautiful feelings of love. I've experiences that, too, and I'll never forget it.

  5. katilda February 27, 2013 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    So beautiful. I owe my very best friend in junior high and high school to a chance meeting on a hike at summer camp, when I ran out of water on a hike and this quiet girl shared hers with me. We were inseparable for the next 6 years.

  6. Amanda February 27, 2013 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    I hope that bill changes the law! I'm not a vengeful "sue the pants off of them" person, but having a father practice law has shown me far to many circumstances like this. What I hope happens is that the medical professionals that missed that diagnosis 2 years ago are held responsible and her daughter's future care can be financially secured.

    I truly admire Lavern and her love and commitment to her child.

    • mara February 27, 2013 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      Yes – they are hoping that they can get some funds to be in her daughter's name. It will be such a blessing if this goes through.

  7. Brooke Reynolds February 27, 2013 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    I'm so sad to hear about this Mara.. What will happen to her daughter? I can't imagine how worried Laverne must be.

    • mara February 27, 2013 at 7:50 pm - Reply

      Lavern's Aunt is currently assigned to be the guardian. Though she is older, has poor health, and doesn't have any resources or funds. So the daughter will likely be out in a group home.

  8. ashanddoug February 27, 2013 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    How wonderful for you all to have been in this lovely woman's life. We all need to slow down and just "be" sometimes……To "be" in the now and cherish those that have stepped into our lives.

    It is unfortunate that the rates for minority women being misdiagnosed is now almost 85%. We need fair, equal and knowledge based medical care for all.

    • mara February 27, 2013 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      Oh my – I didn't know that statistic. Unbelievable.

  9. Michelle February 27, 2013 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    Mara, I'm so sorry! The same exact lung cancer diagnoses happened to my dad. He had a chest scan, it was ignored. A year later he was diagnosed stage 4 a passed away six weeks later. They relooked at the chest scan, and what do ya know, he had lung cancer then too. Surprising and sad how often it happens. Thinking about you and your friend and her family.

  10. Lisa | Happy By February 27, 2013 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    So sad but inspiring story. It is when I hear about these things that leave me speechless and wordless. May God be with her and give her strength!

  11. Valerie Tyler February 27, 2013 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    Oh the scourge of cancer. 🙁 This was heart-wrenching. Sending lots of good thoughts that her daughter is well taken care off, and also hopes that something like this will be prevented in the future.

    Sending plenty of love for her that her suffering is eased.

  12. Sarah February 28, 2013 at 12:11 am - Reply

    Is there a fund that we could donate to? To help support the daughter?

  13. Jocelyn February 28, 2013 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    My prayers are with her as she goes to our loving Heavenly Father. What can we do to support her daughter?

  14. Anonymous March 12, 2013 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    there's so much love in the photos of this post. It's so heartwarming.

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