September 11th now marks an anniversary that is uniquely personal for me, overshadowed though it may be by our nation’s shared tragedy. Just after midnight on Tue, 9/11/12, my father, Douglas Laurence, fell and broke his hip. He died three weeks and eight hours later on Oct 2nd. Those were harrowing weeks filled with complications and setbacks, yet we had expected him to recover. To my amazement, another whole month has elapsed, filled with the attendant tasks that follow a death in the family. Writing about him is my way of processing the empty space that my father occupied for all of my conscious life. It’s my substitute for the Memorial, which he never wanted. This is my true impetus for starting this blog now, and not later.
My mother Frances, my husband, David, and I, have received many wonderful cards, calls, and emails. The one that really summed it up for me was one from family friend, writer/director Nicholas Meyer.
I am so sorry to learn of Doug’s death, even though it may have eased his distress – and yours. I cannot but imagine your own reactions must be equally conflicted.
This life business is certainly mysterious. We’re here; we do things; and then we’re gone. Whatever did it mean, except for the effect our lives had on the lives of others? As my own years advance I ponder this question – and, like everyone else – I can find no answer.
I know Doug battled the world. Sometime literally and heroically (though he never alluded to these deeds); other times – no less heroically, I suspect – in his head. But if we’re talking about the effect his life had on others, I can only say that on my life, it’s an effect I will treasure and remember always. He may have taken his cue from you, Fran, where I was concerned, but boy was he there for me.
It is at times like these that the true paucity of language to express anything important reveals itself. Familiar hackneyed words and phrases are all we can manage – deepest sympathies, condolences, thoughts and prayers are with you, etc. It’s what’s beneath those words that we’re trying to convey, the aching heart, the melancholy reveries, the pain we feel on your account and on our own.
Here’s a fine obituary for my father, written by The Hollywood Reporter (online edition). I think he would have been pleased with his write up.
Dad had fallen at least a half a dozen times in as many years, and never broken a single bone. I’d come to see him as kind of indestructible, like the proverbial cat with nine lives. He was a tough old guy; his lungs and heart were strong, and his opinions even stronger. In hindsight, there were signs during these past months that all pointed to Dad winding down. This is the last photo taken of him, at the backyard wedding of Amanda Hardy on Sept 8th. Amanda had been working for my parents as a part time caregiver for about a year. He looks almost serene in this photo, but was in fact not feeling well and chomping at the bit to leave, so we left minutes after it was shot.