In Memoriam: Laura Jane Seeley
I would like to be in touch with the community about a recent sad event and the usual format of an obituary does not always lend itself to personal communication. There is now an empty place in the world that can never be filled. Laura Jane Seeley left this world on Tuesday, August 22 when the car she was driving crashed violently into another vehicle while returning home from visiting her mother in New Hampshire. The day was clear and sunny, yet her vehicle crossed into the opposite lane and struck a large pickup truck. We may never know why this happened. Fortunately, the two people in the truck were not killed and we have been informed that their injuries were not life-threatening. And it is also fortunate that Laura’s two girls were not in the car because they were still visiting with their grandmother. What we do know is that Laura Jane has two parents, two children, a dedicated life partner, a sister, aunts and uncles, a nephew, and many other extended family, and of course many friends, and for these folks Laura Jane will never again be fully present in our lives. Her physical absence leaves an immense emptiness and her spiritual absence leaves us struggling to understand and cope with a world without Laura Jane.
Laura Jane Seeley was born February 1, 1984 in Winchester, Virginia. While many simply knew her as Laura, her parents—George B. Seeley (Cooperstown, New York), and Mary Ann Klein (Keene, New Hampshire)—named her Laura Jane. Folks in the South are often known by two names and Laura was born in the South. Laura’s sister, Kate Sellers Seeley (Cherry Valley, New York) wanted to name her Buttercups. So we often called her Laura Jane Buttercups. We also often called her Blueberry Rice Chex, because her wide blue eyes and young blonde hair reminded us of the color found in those two foods. She would often sign cards to family with the initial LJBBBRC. She would probably be embarrassed to know her father is revealing these “secrets” to the world, but kids are often embarrassed by the actions of their parents, and I think she would be pleased that her death has not changed me in this regard.
So, even though Laura was born in the South and arrived in Cooperstown at age 5 with a Southern accent, she spent most of her life after age 5 living in and around the Cooperstown area. Most recently she resided in Hartwick, where she lived with her much-loved partner, Frank Novak. They built a life together and 2-1/2 years ago they were blessed with a very special daughter they named Frankie Bella Novak. Eleven years ago, Laura gave birth to another lovely daughter, Ava Lee Brashear, and her father, Jesse Brashear (Oneonta, New York), shared custody with Laura. The two sisters are very close to each other and will need a lot of support.
I could spend time telling you more details about Laura’s life—the sort of thing one might find in an obituary, such as where she went to college (Syracuse) and where she worked and resided, but I will let someone else do that sort of reporting. I just wanted to write a letter so that folks who knew Laura would know something about what is going on. I prefer to tell stories about Laura’s life, some of which are difficult but many of which make me laugh and smile. Laura touched many people by just being who she was. I know that some folks got to know her as she served them at the deli counter at the Price Chopper, and would wait to be served by her. She always did it with a smile and got it right. No matter what sort of job Laura held, she did it with personality and conviction. You got the feeling that this was someone special who took not only her job seriously but took you seriously. Her friends can undoubtedly tell you many other stories. I have been hearing many of them through Facebook. I never had a desire to “do” Facebook, but many years ago Laura pushed me into it and I have never regretted it. Oddly enough, Laura is the only person I know of who has “un-friended” me, but even that did not last too long. But today I am grateful to Laura because Facebook is bringing people together to support one another in Laura’s absence and it is a wonderful tool for keeping in touch.
Many have asked me what is going to happen now. Will there be a service? Yes. When? I do not know. But probably not right away. That is a decision for family to make. But we will be sure to make the announcement as clear to everyone as possible. Will there be a viewing? No. Laura was cremated by Ottman’s Funeral Home in Cherry Valley and we have her ashes. And it is also quite likely that any further announcements can be found on Ottman’s website.
Can we do something to help? So many people have asked that question and offered to help, but I do not know how to answer. Everyone has different needs. The two girls are of chief concern, so if there is some way you can support and help both or either of the fathers that would be helpful. Just taking time to get together with a family member, or perhaps one of her classmates from Cooperstown Central School, would help to diminish the sense of pain and loss. Grieving takes time and it helps if folks can talk to one another about their own sense of loss, but also of their own source of support as well. We all have different ways of coping and I hope that folks choose healthy ways to cope.
I will leave you with word of one of the most important things that Laura ever did. In 2006, Laura signed up to be an organ donor. When she was flown by helicopter from the scene of the accident in Burlington, Vermont to Albany Medical Center, those attending to her knew there was absolutely no hope of recovery. We declined a DNR and that allowed the hospital to keep Laura’s body (and especially her organs) viable after being declared officially dead. Within days an operation was performed, whereby a long list of organs were saved. And as the organs were removed from Laura’s body, there were patients waiting in other operating rooms at Albany Med to receive those organs. She was able to successfully donate both lungs, both kidneys, her liver, her pancreas, her eyes, and also skin and bones and other tissues. Her heart was also on the list, but I have been told they were not able to keep that organ viable.
So even though Laura was not rich or famous, and even though she left behind a long list of those who love her and grieve for her, she gave one of the most valuable gifts possible. She left behind a legacy of life. And I find it inspiring and comforting that there are people alive today who owe their lives and the quality of their lives to Laura. We may never understand her death, but we can remain confident that her life had meaning to many people in many ways.
God bless you Laura Jane, and God bless us all. George Seeley.
George B. Seeley is the father of Laura Jane Seeley.