To be honest, while there are certain Zerantes I have come to value as friends over more years than I care to count, namely John Senior, his wife, Joyce, and their only son, John Junior, who tried, I’m sure, vainly to get into the bathroom in the Zerante house off Melrose Street ahead of his four sisters, Sharon, Kathi, Laurie and Marci, I did not know Laurie Zerante Snider, whose funeral I attended last Saturday, very well.
Of course, I’d met her and would speak to her on occasion when she would return to Lima from her home in Toledo to see her mom and dad, and they’d come to the Knights of Columbus to sit at my bar. However, I sure didn’t know her nearly as well as so many others who crowded the pews of St. Gerard, and for that I’m certain I am the poorer.
Through the words of Father Jim Szobonya in as fine a funeral homily as you’re likely ever to hear and, especially in the eulogy given by Laurie’s son, Jimmy, whose delivery with unwavering voice would have made his mother so very proud, I felt I knew Laurie so much better by the funeral’s end. Jimmy spoke of the lessons imparted by a mother who, despite such tremendous adversity in her life, never yielded an inch, never stopped tilting at her own medical windmills, with the first joust aimed at the diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 19, and never stopped showing her husband, Dick, and his sister, Jaimie, what being a devoted wife and mother truly meant.
Actually, I know Dick, the husband Laurie left behind, far better. Dick and I graduated together in 1969 from Lima Central Catholic and, in the ensuing years, I knew the Dick Snider even he would admit had quite a few rough edges. But, then again, that was before he had the good sense to await Laurie Zerante at the altar 31 years ago. My guess is Laurie, in the ways that loving wives often demonstrate the propensity to accomplish, sanded just about all of those rough edges away, so much so, I can barely recall them.
For Laurie and those whose lives are filled with such dire and chronic medical adversity, much of which a grieving son recounted in the toughest address in front of a packed church he will ever be asked to deliver, I cannot even comprehend the fortitude to live day after day, shoving every thought of her own demise aside and checking off every box with an intended goal — to be a wife, to be a mother, to be a true friend to so many, to be a good co-worker and to be a grandmother — all accomplished without seeking the sympathy of others and wallowing in self-pity, as I suspect I would have.
As I have so often joked, while at the same time acknowledging the veracity of the jest, no one will die with less dignity than I will. And, that’s the antithetical embodiment of folks like Laurie.
No, I didn’t know Laurie well, but I have known other Lauries, like my friend and teaching colleague Bob Priddy, who told me on the last year we taught together before his passing, like Laurie, when he was in his 50s, that he felt that year, one where he endured the rigors of chemo and the sickness that comes as surely as night follows day, was the best year of his career. When I incredulously asked him how that could be, he told me since he didn’t feel the pressures of coaching football anymore, he could just concentrate on being the type of classroom teacher he wanted to be.
And, years ago, I saw Laurie’s spirit in a student of mine, Lindsay Frilling, who refused to allow her own cancer diagnosis at the age of 17 deter her from her schoolwork. When chemo treatments took her hair, she simply tugged her wig on a little firmer and got to work. It was not just her wish she not be treated differently. Rather, it was her mandate.
And, of course, I think of Allison Buehler, who lost her own fight two years ago in January but lived her final thousand days of treatments and doctor visit after doctor visit with an enduring smile and unimaginable positivity.
Those have been some of the Lauries in my life, and that’s the type of person so many came to remember in that packed church on Saturday on Lima’s north side. They came to remember the Laurie who set goals despite so many setbacks. They came to remember the Laurie who never hooked someone’s arm to tell him or her about her troubles and fears. And, they came to remember the Laurie whose spirit and determination endures in all who knew her better than I. And, for that, you are indeed the lucky ones.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.