By CHRISTINA RITCHIE ROGERS
Friends and co-workers are coming together to support the family of one of their own, Lauren Weich, who died suddenly Dec. 1.
Ms. Weich, 41, was a nurse at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in Mooresville and lived on Mulberry Street in Cornelius with her fiance´, Grady Garris, 43, and their four daughters, Michaela, 13, Elizabeth, 8, Rhianna, 2, and Sabrina, 5 months. She died two weeks ago from an undiagnosed brain tumor.
“Lauren would walk into a room and consume it,” Mr. Garris said in an interview at his home. “You couldn’t be around her and not be happy.”
Ms. Weich’s family and friends described her as a warm, outgoing, “no-nonsense” woman, with beautiful red hair and personality to match.
“We’d call her fireball,” Carrie Sides said. Ms. Sides and her fiance´, Erik Scheidegger, have been friends with Lauren and Grady for years, and they are helping organize efforts to support the Garrises as they adjust to life without her.
Already community members have donated food, clothing, money, diapers and formula (five-month-old Sabrina was still breast feeding when Ms. Weich died).
Food Lion grocery store has donated gift cards, members of Cornelius Presbyterian Church have brought food to the house and are collecting money for the family, and Gabi Alberdi, who owns Gabi’s Coffee Shoppe in Cornelius, has made food for the family and also collected money, diapers and formula for them.
On Wednesday, after Pine Lake Prep principal Gloria Miller learned of the Garris’ loss, she collected money and cookies from the Pine Lake Staff within minutes. Ms. Weich’s colleagues at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center helped to get a year’s supply of baby formula for Sabrina, they collected money for the family, and this year they will be helping with the girls’ Christmas lists.
BUSINESS ON HOLD
Mr. Garris owns a hardwood flooring business based in Charleston, S.C., and had been commuting back and forth from Cornelius for work. Without Lauren, he has devoted all of his time to his girls, and hopes to find a way to work in Cornelius. For now, he is focusing on his family.
Above all, Mr. Garris said his primary concern is and always has been providing for his children.
Added Ms. Sides: “He’s a very proud man who busts his butt for his family.”
Mr. Schedegger and Ms. Sides are helping to set up a fund to provide for the girls’ future, Mr. Scheidegger said, and to allow for Mr. Garris to spend time with the girls. In the meantime, community members can donate money at either Gabi’s Coffee Shoppe, Choplin’s restaurant, or Cornelius Presbyterian Church, all in Cornelius.
Beyond grateful, Mr. Garris is in awe of the support he and his girls have received from the community over the last week. Now, in addition to their Christmas tree, the Garris house is decorated with piles of donated clothing, a full pantry and stacks of baby diapers.
“The community wants him to be able to stay here,” Mr. Scheidegger said. “They’re showing him that.”
But without Ms. Weich, the house no longer feels whole to Mr. Garris. He clings to photos of his family, still reeling from the sudden loss, and recounts the day Lauren died with utter heartache.
He remembers waking up to find Lauren unconscious, calling 911 and watching with their daughter, Rhianna, as the ambulance left for Lake Norman Regional Medical Center. Rhianna, 2, still asks, “Mommy in the truck?” Mr. Garris said.
His daughter, Michaela, the eldest, has shown incredible strength, and “I’m finding my rock, my support, in her,” he said.
“She’s 13 going on 38,” Ms. Sides said.
Last week Michaela left a note in Mr. Garris’s truck that said, “It’s OK to feel lost sometimes.”
Michaela was one of the first to notice her mother’s brief memory lapses and forgetfulness, that started a little more than a week before her death. In her final days, Ms. Weich suffered panic attacks and mini “black-outs,” Michaela said.
“She didn’t even realize she was having them,” she said. “Right after she’d have one, she acted like nothing had happened.”
The blackouts, headaches and panic attacks were sporadic, and Ms. Weich, continued to work and care for her children. On Wednesday night, Nov. 30, Ms. Weich was suffering from a particularly bad headache, and the baby was asleep in the bed, so Mr. Garris set up a palett bed in the family room for her.
“The last thing she said was, ‘Are you going to lay with me?’” Mr. Garris said. “And I said yes, because I love you.”
He awoke early that morning to find her unconscious, and she died later that day at Carolinas Medical Center.
But Mr. Garris knows she never will be truly gone; she lives on through his four girls.
“I’ll be seeing her for the rest of my life,” he said.
WANT TO HELP?
Donations for the may be dropped off at the following locations:
Gabi’s, 19915 Jane Crump Way
Cornelius Presbyterian Church, 21209 Catawba Ave.
Choplin’s, 19700 One Norman Blvd.
Dec. 9, 2011, CorneliusNews.net Obituaries, “Lauren Margaret Weich, 41″