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Lessons from Lanie: Life lived aloud

I didn’t know Lanie Kruszewski. But I really wish I had.

A memorial service was held for her on Aug. 3; mourners packed the auditorium of Maggie Walker Governor’s School, where Lanie had attended high school. Even though I arrived just a few minutes late, I was obliged to stand in the lobby, for the seats and the standing room inside the auditorium had been occupied, I surmised, long before. Even so, I couldn’t miss the many stories told of a remarkable and memorable young woman.

I write fiction, and it occurred to me that her friends were describing a true heroine, someone culled from a vivid imagination. I already knew that Lanie was fiercely intelligent and a gifted athlete. But as I stood there listening, Lanie took shape before me, as an intriguing character of literature might.

She was a culinary school-trained foodie with a penchant for bacon, lavender ice cream, ear-shaped cookies and fresh ingredients, and moreover, she liked to share. She possessed a sassy spirit, with the wit to carry it off. She didn’t have a driver’s license or a car, preferring the freedom and earth-friendliness of a bike. She touched people of all walks of life with her positivity and joie de vivre. She had great legs. She knew who she was, even at the age of 24.

Lanie also enjoyed reading. And this doesn’t surprise me in the least, for I know her mother Patty. I’m not sure if it was when my firstborn was still in the womb or right after his birth when Patty gave me The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. The book touts the importance of reading aloud to children, basically from the moment of conception straight through the high school years. And knowing Patty and her mothering ways, I took it to heart, feeling guilty if I ever missed even one day of read-alouds.

I have always looked up to Patty, both as a mother and a writer. And these words that we both admire, the written thoughts that we endeavor to put to the page, have failed me in the face of this tragedy. There is only a gaping white silence in which words float as aimlessly as dandelion fluff.

Often in the face of grief, I turn to the escape of reading. During the memorial service, I learned that Lanie was a Harry Potter fan, to put it mildly. I too am quite the Harry Potter fan. Patty would be proud to know that I read all of the Harry Potter books to my firstborn. Years of his formative childhood were spent reading to him about the enduring friendships of child wizards, their school Hogwarts, and the battle between good and evil. When we finished the seventh and final installment, we both experienced a sort of mourning period. What book would ever match such brilliance?

Such grief isn’t an unusual emotion for me at the completion of novels. I get attached to the characters; I want them to live forever within the bound pages of the book, so that all I have to do is just pick it up again to find out what happens next. When I finished writing my first novel, I couldn’t let my characters go. And now, I am almost done with the sequel. What next? I ask myself. I hate to contemplate moving on, for I fear their stories aren’t yet finished.

But books aren’t meant to go on indefinitely. They are exquisitely brief, like lavender ice cream and chocolate-covered bacon, and unfortunately, life itself. And yet, the best heroines inspire us and bring out the best in us. They live on inside us, even after their stories end.

Lanie’s life was brutally taken from us. Unfairly, her story ended before its time. But it doesn’t matter to those whose lives she touched.

We will continue to turn her pages, because I, for one, have decided to embrace each day as Lanie did. And I will encourage everyone around me to do the same—to not be afraid to peel back life’s flimsy plastic covering and reveal the mysterious, to travel where their legs can take them, to enthusiastically sample the juicy and fresh and untried, to read, to be kind and share and make a difference.

I am now reading the Harry Potter books to my second-born, and much to my delight, my first-born insists on listening too.

Great stories find themselves repeated. Women like Lanie will live on.

Diann Ducharme is the author of The Outer Banks House the recently released e-book, Chasing Eternity, and is a wife, mother of three children and owner of one border collie. You can find her at http://www.diannducharme.com where, she blogs about the writing life.
Community

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

Henricus Historical Park to host Publick Day Sept. 20

Henricus Historical Park will commemorate its anniversary during Publick Day, a signature annual event that celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the New World. In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital, chartered the first college in North America, established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia, and created a place where Pocahontas lived and met John Rolfe.

Publick Day will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Extras sought for AMC’s ‘TURN’

Paid extras are being sought to appear in the AMC television series TURN: Washington's Spies, which will begin filming its second season in the Richmond area at the end of September and continue through February.

No experience is required, but producers say that extras must have flexible availability, reliable transportation and a positive attitude.

Arvold Casting is holding an open call on Sunday, Sept. 21 and is seeking men, women and children who are Caucasian, African American and Native American, with thin to average builds and who can realistically portray people living in Revolutionary War times. Long hair is a plus but not a must. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


TGIF! Celebrate the weekend at Oak Hall Baptist Church’s Community Block Party on Saturday. Learn more about ballroom dancing, art and Colonial times. Or take the kids to Generation Z Games for water play or Southern Season to cook up a Disney-theme meal. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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Oak Hall Baptist Church, 1877 Old Hanover Rd. in Sandston, will host a free community block party from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. There will be children’s activities, a bounce… Full text

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