My Uncle Laurence passed away this November 23rd, 2018. There’s no way to put into words exactly what he was like because you just had to know him. And you were incredibly lucky if you did – and you’d never forget him.
It was a blessing to have Laurence in my life. We met on my 25th birthday in a completely unusual way. He drove down to the East Village, walked right up to me in a bar called Bento Burger below where Lucky Cheng’s used to be on 1st Ave and 2nd Street. Laurence said that my friend had hired him as stripper and asked where should he setup. I must have lost all color in my face, because friends asked “Is this guy bothering you?” He promptly shouted, “Brooke – It’s me, your Uncle Laurence!”
From that moment, Laurence became one of my favorite people in the world. He was funny, fascinating, and fearless. He didn’t give a damn what people thought about him (or didn’t let on if he did), and yet his energy was infectious and he touched everyone he met. He made their life, at the very least in that moment, better. Even at the end, he was concerned with those around him and that everyone was doing well and having a good time.
In the years that followed our meeting, we created countless memories together that I’m so grateful for today. He met my friends and often drove down to NYC to see any one of us perform. I found out that he would send some of my friends messages of encouragement on Facebook, one of whom said, “You had the Uncle we all wish we had.”
He visited my cousin Elaine & Robert from Scotland in NYC at The Oyster Bar in Grand Central and we went down to the Sidewalk to get dinner and see everyone perform, much to his delight. We celebrated his cousin Jim’s wedding in Central Park, an incredible Scottish wedding I’ll never forget. I drove up to West Haven on my golden birthday to see him with two of my closest friends – a trip I’ll never forget. He baked me a yellow layer cake (some of which I ate on the way home), had a balloon and gift bag for me with a special black feather hairclip I wear when I have special performances. He always took me out for the best seafood and knew all of the places to go. Laurence showed me the coast, the beautiful houses and shared stories along the way.
He drove me to see Yale on one of his good days and pointed out all of the spots he and my Dad would visit. We talked about everything from relationships and music to the state of the world, books to read, movies to watch. He was incredibly generous even when he didn’t have the means and showed up for family, friends and people in need. And boy, did he have style!
He was even there when my Grandfather passed away, helped my Mom and Dad clean the apartment and attended his funeral. We had a great time catching up at dinner and then he drove me to the airport and we talked more. Man, I never got tired talking to Laurence. It’s was funny, even after meeting him at 25, I felt like I knew him my whole life.
One of my favorite memories was of the evening we shared last Christmas. I’m so grateful that Laurence wanted (really, he insisted) for us to be all together – Lauren, Daniel, Michael, Nora, Stephen and Heather. It was an evening I’ll never forget – with the best company, Connecticut snow, a warm fireplace and a truly blissful holiday.
However, after catching up for a few minutes upon his arrival, Laurence asked me pointedly, “Well, how’s your musical coming?” in a way that moved me. For someone who wasn’t feeling well, that my artistic endeavor going on six years then was his concern, something of urgency and importance to discuss instead of how he was feeling still shakes me to the core. And I think of Laurence each time I write. The day he passed, I sat down at the piano and finally “finished” one arrangement I was working on for years, at least enough to play live. Even in his absence, his spirit still motivates me the way he did in life. I find myself wanting to write better, do better, be better to make him proud. He deserves at least that: my very best.
I wish I had more time with my Uncle Laurence. More conversations, laughs, love, guidance, seafood dinners, questions for Alexa, records to play, jokes, drives to take, reflections on the train back from CT, photos, parties, birthdays, holidays and a drive cross country with him, like I’d dreamed of doing “someday.”
The deal is that “someday” doesn’t always come. If Laurence has taught me anything by example, it would be to live life with freedom of expression, with passion for what you do in life and with very special care for those you love. To jump in your car when you can, drive down to a city not too far away and make an incredible, lasting impression by just being yourself. To fear less and do more with a full and open heart. To give others the gift of joy by your presence and do your best not to apologize for who you are. To make friends wherever you go but never take shit from anyone, either. To show up for people you care about. And to not wait for “someday” – because if he had waited for “someday” to meet his niece, chances are we would’ve only had half of these memories. Or none at all because you just never know.
Thank you Uncle Laurence for sharing your love and all of these moments with me, your family and this world. The world may seem darker with you gone now, but you’ve shared so much of your light and kindness with others, I believe there’s no choice for it to shine brighter simply because you were here living in it.