A Thanksgiving Without Lori
Lori Durocher Eulogy
Given by Naif Al-Mutawa
At Our Lady of Fatima
In New London, New Hampshire
On Saturday, January 19, 2008
This is my second funeral in the United States. The first one was in 1994. When I showed up it was clear I was not dressed appropriately. The Funeral Director offered me a tie and a shirt. When he saw me fumble with the tie he offered to help me. When he fumbled he told me that he would probably be able to be more helpful if I was lying down. I searched his face frantically for cues. There were none.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
All of you knew, know, Lori. Most of you know of me. You probably heard about how I became part of her family, part of your family, at least a dozen times from Larry. The longer you’ve known him, the more you’re likely to have heard the story. Sometimes, when he’s not thinking, he’ll start to tell even me that he and Lori had a Kuwaiti son. If you’ve forgotten parts of the story don’t be discouraged, he’ll probably tell you again how I became part of the family. With Larry’s stories, you never have to ask.
Lori and Larry moved from the city to New London with Kate and Angus in 1978. That same year my English teacher gave my parents a book of summer camps to choose from. Larry and Lori wanted their kids to grow up away from the hustle and bustle of city life. My parents wanted me to lose weight. Both sets of parents failed miserably. Today Angus and Kate live in San Francisco and New York, two of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, and I, well, let’s just say, I became a well rounded individual.
My parents and I chose a camp in New Hampshire, one that was not all that far away from the Durocher farm. It was on the other side of a set of mountains bridged by the Kangamangus Highway. I attended that camp for ten summers feeling very at home in New Hampshire.
But, in 1989, I decided to put camp and New Hampshire behind me to attend Brown Summer Academy in Rhode Island. That summer I met Angus, who was my roommate and he, Kate, Larry and Lori made sure that my days in New Hampshire were not ending. In fact, they were just beginning. It was later that I would learn from Larry that the road that was called the Kangamangus Highway was referred to in the family lexicon as the “Kate and Angus Highway.” That made sense. After all, it was Kate and Angus that bridged my relationship with Larry and Lori. It was Angus and Kate that bridged my relationship to all of you.
Kate and Angus asked me to speak this afternoon.
There are certain stories that are permanently ingrained in my mind. As Larry proudly states “Kate Durocher says that you only have one chance to make a first impression.” Here are my first impressions of Lori’s kids that will forever stay in my mind.
One afternoon, Angus and I were reading in our room at Brown, each lying on his bed in the dormitory at Keeney Quad. I looked up from the book my eyes were glued to and curiously watched as Angus casually walked over to the window, opened it, and with book in hand, jumped off the ledge.
Already suspect of my clearly deranged American roommate who liked to listen to songs about blisters in the sun, something I pride myself as knowing a thing or two about, and something that I assure you are painful, I walked over to the windowsill in shock. Looking out, I saw Angus sprawled at the bottom of the tree outside our window, trying to look nonchalant, like he planned the fall right to the last detail. I ran down the flight of stairs to see if he was alright. “Ummm yeah,” was, is, his trademark reply, as he brushed himself off, looking around to make sure no one else saw what happened. You dropped this. I said, holding out his book. You also dropped you I thought to myself. He explained that he was climbing out to read on a branch and that he missed it. Ever since I have known him, Angus has been out on a limb.
I handed Angus his book.
A couple of weeks later I met Lori and Kate for the first time. They had driven down from New Hampshire in a convertible to visit Angus. I was on the way to get stood up at Wellesley that afternoon. In Lori’s first expression of generosity she offered me a ride on her way home. I tucked myself into the back seat of her convertible, with barely enough room to cough. A sudden acceleration on a side road lifted Kate’s hat from of her head and sent it flying over her shoulders. My hand shot up and caught the hat before it flew off.
I handed Kate her hat.
That summer, I visited Angus followed by my first Thanksgiving with Lori in 1989. My visits snowballed as I brought more friends and family with me each year. We have a saying in Arabic that translated means “We put up with him and then one day he walked through the front door with his donkey.” How convenient it was that the Durochers lived on a farm. I brought in a string of livestock over the next 18 years. The barn was always full.
Lori’s generosity towards her extended family was contagious. There were times that I wanted to be there. And there were times where I had nowhere else to go. In the winter of 1990, I did not have a country. I did not have a house. But I had a home. That Christmas I spent with Larry, Lori, Kate and Angus in New Hampshire. She always made me feel welcome.
Lori offered her opinions openly but never forced them. I remember once she said to me Naif, I like beards, and I like clean shaven faces. But I’m not sure what I think about goatees. She shared this with me after I had grown a beard back after a goatee phase. She was sensitive enough not to tell me she didn’t like goatees when I had one. And she clearly cared enough to communicate her preference. And just as one would expect from Lori, it was a simple preference.
But most importantly she knew how to strike when the iron was cold.
Lori was a terrific grandmother. She took license in her ways with my children and did so knowing she would have my full support. She has praised and punished them and even given one of them multiple time outs. And she did this with the confidence of a grandmother that knew she was trusted and supported by her son. My children loved her very much. When Larry told me that the doctors had given her weeks to live, I gathered Hamad, Faisal and Khalid together and told them that Lori was going to be with Allah soon and that if they had any messages for Him they should tell her so she could deliver them.
Here are their messages
Khalid-age 6- Khalid wants Allah to love Lori and he says he loves her and cares about her and wants Allah to take care of him (Khalid).
Faisal-age 7 and a half: Faisal wants Allah to let Lori look down at him from the sky like it’s a big window.
Hamad-age 10 and a half: Hamad wants Allah to take care of Lori.
Larry read these messages to Lori and replied to my children
Dear Hamad, Faisal and Khalid-
I read your messages to Lori and she smiled. I know they made her happy and she will deliver them when she gets to Heaven. If she doesn’t get to see Allah directly, she will give them to one of His friends who she knows quite well. But I’m sure that they will get to him. I’m even sure He already has heard your thoughts.
Lori loves you and so do I. And when Rayan gets a little older don’t forget to tell him how nice Lori was and how much she loved him too. And someday, when we all get to meet Allah, she’ll be waiting for us with one of her great big hugs.
It seemed surreal. I spoke to Lori every day and never, not once, did she ever complain. I would hear about her discomfort or pain from Larry-never her. She protected all of us from that. Shortly after Thanksgiving, Larry told me that Lori was unresponsive and that the cancer had broken through the lining of her brain and that she was in her final days. I gave them their space for the first time since I was a teenager while receiving email updates regarding her deteriorating condition from Larry.
A few days later I called the hospital room. Lori answered.
“Hello?” I said surprised.
“Hi Lori” I said cautiously. “You sound like you.”
“I sound like me!” she laughs to a room full of Isaac, Kate and Angus all of whom start laughing.” “I hope I sound like me. Who else would I sound like?”
“I don’t know. How are you doing? “
“We’re eating doughnuts.”
“Is Isaac having half a doughnut?” That was an inside joke.
She laughed and shared it with Isaac who laughed in the background.
I would find out later that she slipped away shortly after that conversation and never recovered coherence.
I can say with some authority that Lori had everything she wanted and needed. She was content. She loved and knew she was loved. Few families would have rallied the way I saw the Durochers rally in Lori’s final days. From the launch of Crowhill art when she was diagnosed to take her mind off of her illness to Larry’s delay of his retirement to make sure she had as many medical options as money could by, I am proud that they count me as one of their own.
The panorama of heights and weights, nationalities and ethnicities, hair lengths and hats gathered in New London today is reminiscent of a Thanksgiving shared with Lori. In it’s own way, this is a Thanksgiving. I thank God, Allah, for giving me the time to spend and share with Lori and her family that have become my own over the last 18 years.
When Kate asked me to give this Eulogy, she fought back tears. She told me that the Eulogy was something that she or Angus would ordinarily be giving but that they would probably burst out crying and that I probably wouldn’t. I told her that I was honored, that I had never given one before but I was a quick study. What I didn’t tell her, but I am sure she knows is that I feel on paper. And this was as difficult to write as it is to read.
And, contrary to urban legend, Kate Durocher can be wrong. My tears prove it.
This Eulogy is Larry’s story. It’s Angus’s book. It’s Kate’s hat. It’s Lori’s farewell.