Tribute – a father’s reflections

for Eva Lawrenz 1987-2017

Occasionally someone will say, because they have heard compelling things about Eva, “I wish I had known her.” I always choke up. It honors her, and us. And I think, I so wish there was more time for that to happen. Today, January 16, is the day Eva entered the world at Elmbrook Hospital, 31 years ago. And so I’d like to pay tribute to our dear daughter on this, the day of her birth. You shaped us, Eva. You left the world a better place.

I could write a book about this kid, this beautiful young woman, and how she impacted others. But today, just a few notes.

I heard recently that one of Eva’s peers said: “she was the most radiant person I ever knew.” Radiant—so true, so true. Another person said that she saw Eva bounding across the room at the home of someone hosting a Bible study to greet her friends with her beaming smile, and thought, I don’t know who that is, but I need to find out.

When we named her Eva (“life” in Hebrew) Helen (“light” in Greek), we had no idea that this is exactly who she would be. Life and light. It is who she was, and what she offered to us. She was humble, and more self-critical than she should have been. She never presumed anything. She chose to sometimes get clothes at Goodwill, and looked spectacular. Eva knew the internal is what matters in life.

As I packed up her books and notebooks to store, I was reminded how intensely she pursued truth and beauty. She read literature that was elusive to me, hand-wrote long lists of quotes, reflected on the meaning of life. The passages of Scripture most impactful with her had to do with the mystery and grace of God. She collected graphic novels and aspired to produce one someday. She sketched and painted and wrote. She was thrilled when someone bought one of her prints. She looked at the hard realities of life, including mortality, but had an eye for beauty in corners of life that seemed ugly. That is the truth; that is the gospel. Not naive optimism. Not superficial “happy talk.” Not rose-colored glasses.

Eva would not let you get away with dishonesty. That helped me as a pastor. No cliche. No spin. No mindless obeisance. She had a nose for arrogance and self-adulation, and she steered away from people like that. The only thing worse than hypocrisy, in her mind, was betrayal.

I knew that Eva was a reliable window for me into her generation. I asked her one day, “what are the main spiritual issues of your generation?” Her answer propelled me into a study of faith and doubt and became a book, “I Want to Believe.”

Eva was just starting her business as a freelance editor. She was my editor, filtering out not just bad grammar, but weak ideas as well. In defiance of disease and death, we have begun “LifeAndLightBooks.org” in her honor. I can’t have a conversation with her today, but I can use the echoes of her voice to help people through the written world all around the world.

In the two years after college Eva saved up for her dream trip across Europe. She and I spent hours researching exactly the right backpack and the best way to pack. She jumped from Germany to England to France to Turkey to Spain, and more. I set her up with Skype so we could video conference, but this was her time and she let us video talk with her just one time. I could tell exactly where she was through “Find My iPhone.” She let me do that, probably rolling her eyes about it.

Eva was a wonderful daughter to Ingrid and me, a true friend to her brother, Christopher. When in 2007 Ingrid and Eva and I drove to the trauma center at Froedtert Hospital, seeing the Flight for Life helicopter fly past us with Chris in it after his near fatal auto crash, Eva said, “If he needs me, I’ll drop out of college to help take care of Chris.” Everything moved in slow motion that day. And these days things are moving slowly for us.

She was a wonderful niece and granddaughter. And a substantial and influential personality to her friends (quotes from them pasted in at the bottom).

Even a little light breaks the darkness. And life is not snuffed out even with physical death. When you lose your kid, you feel like some of you has died. How could it not be so?

Eva Helen, we love you. By the work and will of God you remain life and light for us. We will do our best to keep our eyes on the truth, dear girl.

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QUOTES FROM FRIENDS, USED AT EVA’S MEMORIAL SERVICE

QUOTE: Eva was intellectually brilliant, as well as an amazing artist, creative, adventuresome, authentic, kind, —and what may be the most unique quality of all, she was PRESENT.
QUOTE: Eva was a good friend to me in high school, especially senior year, I was so unsure of myself, and looked to her for confidence and direction. She helped me to grow brave. She was fun and exciting, a little wild.
QUOTE: I always remember Eva as being full of energy, caring and love….her laugh is something you could never forget!…she and some other girls TP’d my house, Saran Wrapped my car, and forked my front yard after we got back from Senior trip. I also remember her asking deep questions and caring deeply for people…
QUOTE: Oh sweet Eva! She loved to laugh and was intentional about being a friend. She was kind—not just kind-hearted, but RAW about it. She paid attention to people who went unnoticed…she loved HARD.
QUOTE: I loved being with her because she was genuine and real—I never felt she was trying to impress me, she just wanted to know me and share her heart.
QUOTE: There wasn’t a time at the Lawrenz home or at church that she didn’t greet me with love and a stunning smile even then I remember finding her quite captivating.
QUOTE: I will never forget the way that Eva looked at a person when she was talking to them. She was always so engaged, she truly saw people in a way that I know many others didn’t take the time to. I felt like she always saw me.
QUOTE: I remember Eva as a very sweet Junior High Student who made it easy for her teachers. She would listen respectfully and speak respectfully. She got along with her classmates beautifully, and was easy to get a courtesy laugh from!
QUOTE: She was definitely a big part in me becoming more confident in myself because of how much she just loved people for being genuine. Something that she truly was.
QUOTE: I remember as seniors we were planning Sno Rodeo. We all had to pick a seminar topic to teach on Eva wanted Apologetics.. I remember how impressed I was of how brilliant she was. She was so confident in her faith. And KNEW why she believed what she did. I was inspired.
QUOTE: We used to spend evenings with Mel and Ingrid before we had children. Eva was the oldest of our kids. Once Eva was about 1.5 to 2 years old we never needed any entertainment again…no need for a movie! We had Eva to entertain us!
She loved to take care of Christopher and our 2 boys. Eva was Our son Dannys first love. He called her E-A (couldn’t say his Vs). Eva learned to read REALLY REALLY early, and would read to Danny!
QUOTE: Mel and Ingrid were convinced that their second child would be a girl, so had told Eva that baby Annika was coming. Then Christopher was born. It took Eva a few weeks to stop calling him Annika and figure out he was a boy!!
QUOTE: We had a bible study at Lawrenz’s and when Eva turned 16 and was able to drive the boys LOVED that she would offer to get them out of the captivity of the family room and take them to McDonalds or Taco Bell.
QUOTE: She was unbelievably creative and as she got older she took over the breakfast nook and it became Eva’s personal art studio.

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6 thoughts on “Tribute – a father’s reflections

    • Hi Mel & Ing,
      I don’t know if you remember me. This is Bobby Klein. Seems like yesterday that we we’re playing volleyball and our kids we’re running around the bleachers. Or when Christopher saw the big hole in Aunt Cindy’s backyard and said “Oh baby, that’s a big hole”!
      Linda and I have grieved and cried over your loss. Life is so brief and precious. We continue to lift you both, Chris and Cindy in prayer.

      In Him,
      Bobby and Linda Klein

  1. Thanks for being transparent Mel & sharing this as I am sure it is incredibly difficult. What a fantastic way to honor Eva with Life and Light books! May God bless you and your family and use you in a mighty way for His glory!

  2. Mel,

    What a nicely written tribute to Eva. She inherited her literary talent from her Dad. Her legacy is, no doubt, what you describe, that she left the world a better place than she found it. I have that goal in my personal mission statement. Even though she is no longer with us may she, by the memory of her good life, hold us all accountable to living out the truth so the same can be said of us, that in the end we have left the world a better place than we found it.

    Blessings to you and the family,

    Rob Adams

  3. This moving and loving tribute brings tears, but your beautiful daughter leaves you with a legacy you will carry into eternity. Bless you, Mel, and your family, and your mission. The Lord provides mysteriously and completely.
    Anne Owens

  4. I did not know Eva but after reading your tribute and friends comments I realize I missed knowing one of the most beautiful persons to live. Although, I will meet her in eternity, praise God!