Happy Birthday Terri Luanna

Today would have been Terri’s 41st birthday…

As I sit here in her home, in the silence, finally taking a moment to process this day, the gratitude I feel for the privilege of accompanying my niece along the remarkable but painfully short journey of her life, is what I keep coming back to. What I have to come back to.

Just look at her…

Our gracefulwomanwarrior in Cairns, Australia @1986

Luanna soaring through the air in  Cairns, Australia @1988








This quote from Lady Gaga resonates all that is/was Terri-

“I suppose that I didn’t know what I would become, but I always wanted to be extremely brave and I wanted to be a constant reminder to the universe of what passion looks like. What it sounds like. What it feels like.”

From the moment Terri Luanna graced this earth, she was destined to teach us all what passion looks, sounds and feels like. To leave a touchstone, an imprint, on each of our hearts that will forever be ours to keep. One of compassion as well as passion. One of resiliency and grace. Of living life fully.  With integrity. And gusto. And love…

But one of her greatest gift to me, the one that fills the tremendous hole Terri’s death has left in my heart, is her daughter. The magical Miss M.

From the moment Miss M woke my hubby and I this morning, her presence soothed my aching heart. I held back my tears as we snuggled, wishing Mamãe a happy birthday, then my tears gave way to laughter as Marisa and Mark kicked off their morning pillow fight. (Picture an old western arcade game where you shoot at the moving target only this target is dressed in footie pajamas, running back and forth at the bottom of your bed!)

She decided that she wanted Papai to make his special chocolate cake for Mamãe’s birthday and to leave a piece outside in nature for Mamãe and the birds. Once in CT we were greeted by a 5’10” monkey masked Papai and soon after, commenced our cake baking, dance party, spaghetti eating evening.

Finally, it was time to leave our present for Mamãe. Our fearless leader, Miss M, led the charge. Flashlight in hand, she and Papai located the best, most excellent tree for the cake.

Pointing her flashlight up she said, “I want to look for Mamãe in the trees…”

She focused her beam on a large maple between her house and the neighbors.

“She’s definitely in that tree,” she matter of factly informed us. “Because she can watch over us and Kristina.”

Terri incarnate…

The tears did come. Hers and mine. First Marisa’s, as she cried herself to sleep in my arms with Papai sitting along side her.

Then ours. As Papai held me close before going to bed. As I watched Terri’s Life Celebration. As I answered the call from Aunty Cole.

But inevitably, the tears brought me back to the beginning. To the gift I have been so blessed to receive. The imprint of Terri Luanna that will forever be on my heart.

Happy, happy birthday my sweet niece…

Love, Aunty Laurie

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3








16 Responses

  1. Thank you for your beautiful posts, and for keeping Terri’s spirit alive in all of us. I barely knew her but have been touched by her through her many soul-stirring posts, and now through those of her family. Wishing all of you peace and sweet memories.

  2. I went outside (at midnight when I read this blog), just to look for the cake. I think maybe the birds have taken it. Marisa, Heron, Auntie Laurie…know that I am akways thinking of Terri and am so glad to have known her and I know she is watching over me…I have felt that since the day we met ❤️

  3. Just saw this beautiful post — and thinking of you all, as here in Indianapolis I wake up to what would have been my grandma’s hundred and sixth birthday. I had not seen the picture of Terri in Australia — how like how I imagined her mother to be she was as a dancer! And watching Marisa as she grows up has been and will be yet another great joy in my life that knowing you all has given me. Thank you.

  4. Happy Birthday; sadly, I never got many opportunities to get yo know you better, but your eyes, and the sound if your parents voices filled in a lot of the gaps. Thank you for being amongst us.

  5. Thank you for that Laurie. It really touched my heart and soul. Brought back memories and tears. Happy Birthday Terri! What a beautiful picture of her soaring through the air! Such passion she has always had!

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