A memorial service for Laura

By Pat Schwiebert

We had a celebration of Laura’s life this past weekend at the Peace House.  We had it there because she loved that place. Those of us who gathered loved Laura.  She died almost two months ago while being a patient at Unity Hospital here in Portland.  We don’t know the exact cause of her death, only that she was found still in her hospital bed by a hospital aide.

I met Laura and Marshall almost a year ago when they started showing up at Sunnyside. Sometimes she would speak, often not. She could be agitated, calm or almost catatonic. Marshall was always with her.  Their home was their van which they shared with their kitty. Sunnyside Community House became a safe haven for both Marshall and Laura. They could get a hot meal. a shower, and a time to visit with friends. Marshall could rest and not have to be constantly attending to Laura’s needs because he knew we would have an eye on her while he slept.  I often marveled at how Marshall was able to contain one who had a diagnosis of bipolar schizophrenia in such close quarters. It was hard work. Sometimes you could see the stress on his face. But he never complained. You could see them hand in hand walking around the block to get exercise and fresh air.  

Laura was a creative one.  She loved to crochet, draw, and make collages. 

Not too infrequently Laura would secretly enter the upper part of the church. She was drawn to its beautiful stained glass windows.   She could be seen exploring the many rooms or seeking a place to be quiet. She might be found sitting in the sanctuary, or following the delightful sounds of children making music in the My Voice Music space.  One day she was in the Third Rail office visiting with Maureen Porter, Third Rail’s director. Maureen asked Laura if she knew where she was. Laura replied, “I’m home.” Many of our folk at Sunnyside claimed this church to be their home.  A place where they felt safe, loved, and could get their basic needs met. What more could we want from a church than to feel the warmth of a home.


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