Greg, Laura's brother
Also Laura was magical with children and a gifted teacher. She had a special talent for connecting with children and they took to her readily. I believe this was because she never lost her youthful enthusiasm and reverence for life. Children recognized this and knew this made her special and set her apart from most adults. Laura also saw the world as a place of great mystery and awe inspiring beauty. She traveled the world in an effort to see and experience as much of it as she could. Another trait that set Laura apart was that she was not a judgmental person and rarely spoke of others in an uncomplimentary way. Even when she would strongly disagree with someone, “live and let live” was still her credo.
For me it was always a comfort knowing that Laura was out there showing all of us another way to live. While most of us spend all our time and energy worrying about our careers, or status, or material comfort, none of that appeared to matter much to Laura. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Laura had made a conscious decision to be happy with herself and her life no matter what her circumstances. It is hard to imagine a more valuable gift you can give to yourself or others than this. What a different world this would be if more people simply decided to be happy.
Laura lived life for the experience, the thrill, the sheer joy. As my mother noted, Laura is now on the greatest adventure of all. The adventure we will all embark on one day. Until we meet again Laura – I miss you, I love you and Vaya con Dios.
Susie, Laura's sister
I have often wondered how two sisters growing up in the same household could be so different and wish that I could see things through her eyes. To be able to see God’s earth as a playground is one of the things that I most admired about her, most of us spend years looking for fun in the wrong places when it’s right outside the door.
She has brought me joy, laughter and a sense of dorking out. I have many memories of parties that involved a 150 foot slip and slide where many bruises were obtained. Pulling up to a nice hotel in downtown Albuquerque in her 1973 Chevy Van, getting out and folding up our lawn chairs while she is telling the valet that she’ll pay him extra dollars to watch her “cherry” vehicle. Surfing Chochiti Lake and having a pontoon boat pull up and ask how the waves are and offering to create a wake for her to surf. We’d go to the driving range and try to hit the guy picking up the balls in the caged golf cart to no avail. One of the funniest moments was when Laura opened up a direct “walkie talkie” communication on my cell phone when I was at work, I had inadvertently left the phone setting on speaker phone. At the time I was away from my cubicle and when I returned everybody started laughing uncontrollably and informed me that my purse was telling me to call into work with explosive diarrhea because it was going to the lake for the day. I have never lived down that moment, but still laugh about it to this day. We also liked to go play racquetball where we would laugh uncontrollably for hours at how lucky I was. She would tell me that I should really try to use the part of the racquet that had the strings on it not the plastic edge. But the funniest part was listening to her tell everybody the story of how I had mastered the art of hitting kill shots using the edge of the racquet. I have watched Tim and Laura take a soccer ball stand immediately under a pecan tree and punt it straight up into the tree to try to harvest pecans, only realizing after the first kick and getting pelted repeatedly by the falling pecans that standing under the tree was probably the wrong approach. More recently we played on an over 30’s soccer team where her and a friend thought up five different moves that they were going to try on me. I can’t remember all five, but I remember thinking to myself, why is Laura stealing the ball from me? Why did I just get pelted with the ball as hard as my teammate could have kicked it? Did I just get sandwiched by two of my teammates? She finally told me her antics. These are just a few examples of the dorking out that Laura and I have shared, I will hold the rest in fond memory.
Her vitality for life and her love of all living things is an inspiration to all and through her actions she has touched more people than she probably imagined. I cherish every moment that I have shared with Laura and dearly miss our talks and her inspiration. My heart is deeply saddened that I won’t have an older sister to call to tell about accomplishments and new exciting opportunities.
I have a saying “Living the Dream”, I believe that Laura has lived and continues to live the dream. Laura you are deeply missed and I have a hole in my heart. I would like to finish with a saying from an anonymous writer: Hope is not pretending that troubles don’t exist…It is the trust that they will not last forever, That hurts will be healed and difficulties overcome..,. It is faith that a source of strength and renewal lies within to lead us through the dark to the sunshine.
Aloha and Mahalo for being my sister.
Tim, Laura's brother
Laura changed the way I see things. She changed the way I see things through the adventures we shared, the debates we engaged in, the choices she made, and the way she lived her life. It is the things that I admired most about her that have had the greatest impact on me.
Laura, I admire you, like so many others, for your passion for life, your sense of absolute adventure, your non-judgmental acceptance of others, your dorky sense of humor, your ability to get me off my ass and out the door, your grasp on what it means to be truly free, and most of all your contagious spirit of fun. I remember a time when I was a freshman in college (you were always including me in your fun). One night (of course a school night) you announced it was dollar drive-in movie night and told us all to grab the couches, lawn chairs, coffee table, and coolers and load ’em into your friends’ trucks. We went to the drive-in and set up a living room right there among all of the cars. And even though it only cost us a dollar, of course you still had us sneak in our own popcorn and cooler. It was awesome! Who says you can’t bring your living room to the drive-in anyway?
Her fun and adventurous qualities are quintessential Laura, but there are many other dimensions to her as well.
Laura, I admire your resolve -- your unwillingness to compromise your beliefs. Once you understood how your personal choices impacted the world around you, you made a commitment to yourself to make what you felt were the right choices and didn’t waiver. Choices that for most of us would be difficult to stick with or too tedious to be bothered with, like becoming vegan, washing out your Ziploc baggies, making reusable grocery bags out of old jeans, and of course your ability to live an entire year on $37.
Laura, I admire your tremendous courage, and the sacrifices you made to stay true to your free spirit. You made choices that most would not even consider. Like at 41 years old, deciding to leave your job (mind you a job that had summers off), sell almost all of your stuff, and move to Hawaii in search of a life that would fulfill you more. You didn’t shy away from hard work, but were unwilling to conform to the role that society had scripted for you. You believed that life was for living and you were not yoked with others expectations.
Laura, your influence on me has been great and it is clear that your influence in this world has been even greater. You have created awareness for what was important to you. You walked the walk, and set an example for the rest of us on how to be present in our own lives.
Because of who you were I am a better person.
I remember the day I got Laura’s email showing me Bessie. It read, “just when you thought I got rid of my van............. aha another one appears. her name is Bessie! a '91 ford aerostar. i'm gonna get a soccer mom bumper sticker for my new house on wheels! its a total island beater Maui cruiser.” So, Bessie was the new (very used) van she’d purchased and planned to sleep in while she was figuring out her next move. I recall the conversation I had with her expressing my concern. I said “Laura you’re not in your twenties anymore, where are you going to park at night, where are you going to go to the bathroom?” Her answer was, “Thanks for worrying about me timmy-wimmy, I’m fine and anyhow I’m working on the perfect house right now.” In a later email she wrote “living the dream! I'm manifesting the perfect house as we speak. I can't wait to see it! come on universe let's bring in the perfect space for me! with a bathroom!” When we got her van back from the police, we came across her efforts to create her perfect home.
Laura always said if you want to make it happen, write it down. This is what she wrote.
Manifesting your perfect home Jan 15 2010
Let’s manifest a house – the ideal beautiful, effortless, guilt free, spiritual, supportive, loving, nurturing, happy, filled with lots of laughter, private, cozy, safe space where evolving, growing, learning, teaching, connecting, shedding layers and being healthy exists. A place where adventuresome, happy people exist in harmony and love. A home with lots of garden food, orchard food, happy chickens, and a beautiful clean dog to cuddle and take on adventures, a horse to ride and a stream and pond to connect with. No mosquitoes, lots of food on the land and music and love and learning without fear. My house will be cute and cozy with enough space inside and out for me and my stuff. It will be a place with a spacious kitchen with lots of counter space, an outdoor shower, and a bed where I can see the stars. It will have a private outdoor living space and a big lanai with a view and a place for a fire, clean water and it will be quiet inside for sound sleeping. It will have easy access to stores and be close to friends with awesome views of ocean and mountain and sunset. It will be off the grid, self-sufficient but with landline and cell phone coverage. All activity at my house is with ease and joy. No obstacles. This living situation leads to money-making opportunities where I do what I love and the money flows. I desire solitude but not isolation.
I believe Laura found her perfect home and I believe she is there right now. I believe it’s the ideal beautiful, effortless, guilt free, spiritual, supportive, loving, nurturing, happy, filled with lots of laughter, private, cozy, safe space where evolving, growing, learning, teaching, connecting, shedding layers and being healthy exists. A place where adventuresome, happy people exist in harmony and love.
Laura, I love you.
Laura, I miss you.
Stephanie, Laura's sister-in-law
“What happens to one who walks towards God? What transformations do they go through along the way? To understand this, imagine what would happen if you started feeling tremendous love for all creatures, for every plant , for every animal, and for all the beauties of nature. Imagine if every child seemed like your own, and every person you saw looked like a beautiful flower, with it’s own color, its own expression, shape, and sounds. As you went deeper and deeper, you would start noticing a phenomenal thing you are no longer judging. The process of judging has simply stopped. There is just appreciating and honoring. Where there used to be judging, there is now respecting, loving, and cherishing. To differentiate is to judge. To see, to experience, and to honor is to participate in life instead of standing back and judging it.
When you walk through a beautiful garden, you feel open and light. You feel love. You see beauty. You don’t judge the shapes and placement of every leaf. The leaves are of all sizes and shapes and they face every which way. That’s what makes them beautiful. What if you felt that way about people? What if they all didn’t have to dress the same, believe the same, or behave the same? What if they were like flowers, and however they happened to be- seemed beautiful to you? If that happened, you’d get a glimpse of God.
Contemplate this, and let go of the idea of a judgmental God. You have a loving God. In truth, you have love itself for a God. And love cannot do other… than love.”
I would like to add that although Laura’s disappearance was an enormous loss for me personally, I also mourn the loss of my son’s relationship and future with his adoring Aunt Laura. We all miss her terribly and can’t imagine life without her glowing smile and joyful spirit.
Jessica, Laura's sister-in-law
When I was looking for something to read for today, I came across two poems that spoke to me because I thought they were so relevant to Laura and her place in this world.
The first is called Lost by David Wagoner.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
The second poem I chose is called Courage by Robert William Service.
Today I opened wide my eyes,
And stared with wonder and surprise,
To see beneath November skies
An apple blossom peer;
Upon a branch as bleak as night
It gleamed exultant on my sight,
A fairy beacon burning bright
Of hope and cheer.
"Alas!" said I, "poor foolish thing,
Have you mistaken this for Spring?
Behold, the thrush has taken wing,
And Winter's near."
Serene it seemed to lift its head:
"The Winter's wrath I do not dread,
Because I am," it proudly said,
"Some apple blossom must be first,
With beauty's urgency to burst
Into a world for joy athirst,
And so I dare;
And I shall see what none shall see -
December skies gloom over me,
And mock them with my April glee,
And fearless fare.
"And I shall hear what none shall hear -
The hardy robin piping clear,
The Storm King gallop dark and drear
Across the sky;
And I shall know what none shall know -
The silent kisses of the snow,
The Christmas candles' silver glow,
Before I die.
"Then from your frost-gemmed window pane
One morning you will look in vain,
My smile of delicate disdain
No more to see;
But though I pass before my time,
And perish in the grale and grime,
Maybe you'll have a little rhyme
To spare for me."
My heart breaks for Laura, it breaks for my husband, and of course for Joan, Dick, Greg & Susie. It breaks for all of the people who have loved Laura and been inspired by her. And it breaks each day with the thought that our sons will grow up without their amazing Auntie Lala. But Laura is unforgettable. She, is as present in our hearts now as ever before. We will teach our sons the lessons she has taught us … lessons of courage and love and adventure... and Laura will live on in each of us. We love her and we will miss her with all of our hearts.
My name is Nick Mann and I’ve known Laura for 30 years. We went to intermediate school, high school and college together. Two years after I moved to Hawaii, I got a call from Laura saying, “Duuuude, I’m thinking of moving out there! Can I crash at your place for a while??” We ended up being roommates and continued to grow closer throughout the years.
I recently wrote a thank you message to Laura to express my gratitude for the way she has touched my life. I would like to share this message with you today.
For the last 30 years, you have not only been one of my closest and dearest friends, but as you and I have told each other countless times, we are ‘family’.
I could never truly express the depth of my gratitude for the gift of you in my life. You have enlightened me with your wisdom. You have amazed me with your boundless energy. You have inspired me with your passion for life. I am filled with wonderful memories of our deep conversations and your hysterical sense of humor, which often makes me laugh so hard I cry. You have strengthened me with your supportive and encouraging words. You have always been there for me whenever I needed a friend. Laura, I am so very grateful for the honor of sharing such a wonderful friendship with you. . . . SO VERY GRATEFUL!
I have a deep admiration and respect for the way you have lived your life. Always following your heart, your life has been one great adventure after another. You not only work hard to protect the environment, but you educate and inspire others (including your students) to do the same. You give the very best of yourself to all living things including people, animals and even trees.
Since you went missing on February 21st, my life just hasn't been the same without you. I miss you beyond measure and want you to know that you will always have a place in my heart. Wherever you are and wherever your journey takes you next, I wish you eternal happiness, peace and love.
Thank you for so beautifully touching my life in a way that only you could. I know you will always continue to brighten my world and the universe with your Lauralight.
I love you, Pilgrim. Lisa and I both do."
One other thing that I would like to share with you all is an inspirational card that I picked up years ago. This card really resonated with me, so I framed it and hung it on my office wall. Recently, I shared this card on FaceBook and several people commented on how it reminded them of Laura. I couldn’t agree more. The title of the card is, “The Essence of Success”, and it says, “Successful is the person who has lived well, laughed often and loved much, who has gained the respect of children, who leaves the world better than they found it, who has never lacked appreciation for the Earth’s beauty, who never fails to look for the best in others or give the best of themselves.”
By this definition of success, I don’t know of anyone who has lived a more successful life than Laura.
Laura you are like a meteor burning hot, bright, fast and you have left a huge mark on all of us. You have made us so happy and so sad. I think that is what makes an extraordinary person. Someone that can make us feel passionately, someone that can make you mad and make you love just as much. A person with passion and conviction, she is our teacher, in laughing and crying, living and dying. You make me so mad, I love you so much. The yin and the yang, Laura Vogel, you will always be a symbol of balance in the universe. As we walk through this life we will always remember you as the biggest dork and the greatest warrior.