Eulogy for Lani Lisa

Lani Lisa Lawrence was an old friend and one of the people who followed my blog. I planned to visit her in Tacoma when I visited Seattle in late May, but she died suddenly a week before I arrived. Though I knew she was terminally ill, we all thought she would have more time.

Lani Lisa was both fire and water. Her personality was Celtic fire, and her boundless energy consumed everyone around her. It was no surprise that she would become a beautiful fire dancer after she found her long time home in Tacoma, Washington. Lani Lisa was also a water dancer of sorts, skilled with whitewater rafts in the red rock desert and later as a bay keeper on her beloved Puget Sound. I am honored to have had her life touch mine and to have had my young children look up to her like family all those years ago.

Me and Lani Lisa at her home in Tacoma in 2012

Before Lani Lisa’s heart settled on green Washington, she was an itinerant in Utah and western Colorado. The sandstone canyon country was where we met her, when she and my husband, Joseph, worked as park rangers together at Colorado National Monument. They were instantly like brother and sister. She kept a photo of the two of them in full U.S. National Park Service uniforms at her little urban farmhouse in Tacoma. There was little else in her house from her years in the canyon country, prompting her many Tacoma friends to dub Joseph “The Mystery Ranger.” When we visited her in Washington, it was clear how well her life in the nurturing rain suited her and how much she had become a part of the community in Tacoma. When our daughter was in college a couple hours’ drive north in Bellingham, Lani Lisa invited her down for Thanksgiving dinners and showed her the fiery art of glass blowing. Lani Lisa welcomed our son and his wife when they came to visit. Her heart and home were always open to us.

When we met her and for years afterward, she went only by her middle name, Lisa, but an experience on the Big Island of Hawai’i prompted her to embrace her first name, Lani. She was drawn to Pele’s earth-fire in Kilauea, where a native Hawaiian told her Lani was a name of power, meaning “the heavens,” and she was given her name for a reason. She certainly was. The world will miss your power, Lani, and so will we.

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