Laura Saudargaite: 1981 – 2016

Laura was a truly amazing individual, the kind of spirit that we only come across maybe once or twice in a lifetime.  Laura’s passion for life, pure enthusiasm, love of adventure and willingness to embrace any challenge head on, made her a rare entity indeed; in short, there was no one quite like her.

Laura fought against all odds, and never gave up.  She looked cancer in the eye, unflinchingly, and defied it to stare back at her.  She remained beautiful, strong and courageous until the last.

The amount of Laura’s family and friends gathered at the celebration of her life on 12th May 2016 was a true testament of just how many people she touched, just how many lives Laura managed to put her indefinable stamp on and of just how much we all loved her.

Laura’s journey began on the 19th March 1981 in the town of Plunge in Lithuania.  As a baby, family were desperate to hold and play with her, but Laura defied the odds and decided to sleep for a good 16 hours a day, leaving a queue of admirers having to coo quietly over her cot.  A loyal sister to Darius, who looked after her whenever their mother was at work, as soon as Laura started school, she did not go anywhere without her brother.  In fact, she would always be waiting for him at the canteen doors and, if Darius did not appear, Laura would go without her lunch.

Such adoration was not without its downsides, as Darius well remembers.  One day, while their mother was cutting Laura’s hair, Darius made the mistake of creeping up behind her and pulling it.  Laura immediately grabbed the scissors from her mum and hurled them at Darius, hitting him on the face, just clear of his right eye, the scar of which he still bears today and jokingly shows people when retelling the story.

As Laura grew up, she found that she was always the centre of a large circle of friends, and she would plan things with them at any opportunity.  For those of us who did not know her at that young age, this sounds very familiar and a trait which Laura carried with her all her life.  At the age of 8, Laura began to study the piano and went onto musical college to continue her studies until she was 15.  After the loss of her mother, Laura studied at agricultural college, before deciding to move to the UK and begin her life afresh.

Laura arrived in England in 2001 and her work first took her to Norfolk, before she travelled south and settled in Tunbridge Wells.  After taking up a job at Hooper’s department store, Laura moved on to become assistant manager of Jigsaw and, from there, manager of Phase Eight.  Along the way, she inspired a wealth of people with her sharp sense of humour and her well-known trait of striving for perfection, be it in taking a selfie on the iphone, or in making sure that her shop floor was absolutely spotless.  Laura took no hostages, but, in doing this, she always remained true to herself and to her beliefs and pushed us all – both family and friends – to reassess things, make the right decisions and be the best possible versions of ourselves.

Laura’s love for fashion and retail, along with her exceptional standards, meant that in August 2014, she was offered the chance to go to Singapore, where she would oversee the newly opened concessions there, along with travel to Malaysia and Indonesia.  Laura was beside herself with excitement when the call came through, confirming that she’d got the job and it seemed as if her lifelong ambition to combine both travel and career had been fulfilled.   She finally flew out to Singapore in the November of that year, and spent a month putting the ‘Laura Stamp’ on the business in Asia, as only she knew how.  Stocktakes were completed to the letter, fixtures of dresses left looking entirely pristine throughout the day and customers served to exceptional standards.  Just another day at Phase Eight really, but with Laura’s indescribable way thrown in as well!

On her arrival back in the United Kingdom, she braced herself for the first challenges of her illness ; a lumpectomy, followed by chemotherapy.  Laura faced up to these huge obstacles as only she knew how, not flinching from the reality of them for a second, but hurtling straight on, towards her goals and dreams, which lay on the other side.

Afterwards, Laura was incredibly keen to comfort and benefit others who faced cancer.  It was finally decided that a blog would act as an instantaneous means of both out-reach and storytelling; Laura would be able to emotionally ‘off load’ whilst, at the same time, provide a source of reference for those wanting to find out more about the disease.

With the success of the blog, it could be easy to define Laura through her illness, to remember her for someone who fought cancer bravely and beautifully until the end.  However, everyone who knew her, understood that there was so very much more to Laura than the incredible battle that she put up; in fact, Laura faced any adversity in exactly the same way.  She saw the problem, assessed it and then decided exactly how she was going to deal with it, in a manner that was both positive and strong.  How wonderful if we can all take this amazing strength from Laura and, in some way, make it our own.

It has also become apparent that the blog was never simply just about cancer, but much, much more than that.  It was a blog about a truly inspirational woman who would not be defeated.  The disease which took Laura from us did not crush her spirit, neither did it overcome her strength.   Laura touched the hearts of others in a way which few mortals can, and she will continue to do so long after her story has been told.

If we could each take snapshots of Laura’s life in our heads and form an album with which to remember her by, what an amazing collage we would have.  Love, laughter, dancing, singing, living life to the full, the list goes on.  What powerful memories we will all take with us and cherish forever.

Laura’s passion for travel took her on many adventures and secured her a whole host of life-long friends along the way.  The only place that Laura wanted to see but never got the chance, was Cuba.  It was therefore fitting that one of her last wishes was for some of her ashes to be scattered in the sea there.  Laura’s love for travel inspired this decision and, by setting her free in the beautiful depths of the Atlantic Ocean, she will truly travel the world for all eternity.  It is a huge comfort to think that, every time we see the sun setting on the sea, be it at the end of Brighton Pier or on a sandy beach in an exotic destination, we will know that Laura is there with us.

There are some people whose memories will not fade in the hearts of their loved ones; individuals whose lights burned so strongly and so compellingly in life that they will never, ever be diminished.  Our wonderful Laura is one of those magnificent beacons who will always give illumination and hope to the lives of those she warmed.

Laura has written us all a last letter, which is below.

To My Family and Friends,

Who would have thought that I would be in the position that I am in now, to write and say goodbye to my loved ones.  I am so thankful for meeting so many great people in my life and creating such a journey with them.  Smiles and laughter, ups and downs, that’s what creates strong, powerful friendships.  Friends have always meant a lot for me, so too does being honest and truthful to each other.  I just want to say how lucky I have been meeting you all and sharing different parts of my life with you.  From love life, to travels and journeys, to laughter and tears, sunshine and rain.

When it comes to friendship, I always valued everyone’s opinions and individuality. Every single one of my family and friends touched my heart and touched my soul and made me the person that I am.

I know sometimes I was bossy and I always made sure you were all well organised.

I would like to say thank you to all of my family and friends. Looking back, I have no regrets and have had a brilliant life.  Now it makes sense why I lived so fast, and wanted to explore as much as I could.  I want to thank this beautiful world for letting me discover and travel it, and for giving me opportunities to see things that I never even knew existed.

All my love,

Laura

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