Tribute From Ben VanLandingham
Today's #TributeTuesday comes from Claire's oldest brother, Ben.
This is what he said at her Celebration of Life on January 10, 2018:
"Claire packed so much into her 27 years with us. She was a daughter,
a granddaughter, a sister, a cousin and an aunt. She was a student, a volunteer,
a musician, a dancer, a dentist, and a Naval Lieutenant. She was these things
and so much more. Somehow, though she had many trades, she mastered them all.
I could not have been more proud to call her my little sister.
It always amazed me that she could excel academically while managing to fit so much community service into her spare time. Through her talent, hard work and good choices, she was able to graduate from both undergrad and dental school without paying a dime of tuition. From a remarkably early age, she involved herself in community service projects both big and small, from baking cookies for her neighbors to raising money for South African orphans. Somehow she found the free time to do all of these things. As a relative said the other day, I'd have had free time in college too if I hadn't been drinking beer and playing pool. Claire had better things to do.
I often told her how impressed and proud I was of her achievements and good choices. In fact, I told her that so often that I think it really started to embarrass her. But her achievements are only part of her story. And I wish I had thought to tell her then what I am about to tell you now: Claire was one of the most fun people in the world you could hang out with. I don't think I ever told her that, but it's undoubtedly true. There was nobody better to be goofy with. Whenever the family was together we would tease each other with silly inside jokes, dance around ridiculously, and sing like cheesy lounge singers. I'm sure every one of her friends in this room has similar memories with her. I'd love to hear every one of them later on at the reception.
Taylor and I would do anything we could to make Claire laugh, even if we knew we would likely face what we called "the wrath" as a result of our jokes. In fact, one of the most famous quotes in our family, "sit up, scoot up, and shut up" was the result of some particularly zealous attempts by Taylor to make Claire laugh at a family dinner in the Terre Haute Olive Garden. Any trouble we found ourselves in was nothing compared to lighting up the face that always lit up our lives.
She was the shining light of our family, and that would have been true had she never achieved anything of note. She brought so much joy to every single member of our family; I think it's safe to say that she was everyone's favorite. She was the best of us. Though we will remember her achievements always, we will miss Claire, our sweet, silly shining light."
Tribute from Ben Wedeking
Today's #TributeTuesday is a sweet remembrance from Ben Wedeking. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories of Claire.
"I was disappointed to break a dish of my late grandmother’s last Thursday night while I was cooking. It was a small bowl, off-white, with sides that flared out instead of rising straight up, and it was painted with a leafed oak branch. The issue was I had a teapot and a soup pot on the stove while I was cooking, even though they weren’t needed. The action was happening in the skillet and saucepan, and my foolish plan to perch the skillet’s lid on the soup pot resulted in a big mess when the lid fell, knocking my grandmother’s bowl from the stove to the floor.
I collected the broken pieces and left them on a plate on my kitchen table, still dirty with food and grime from my floor. Though I have another identical bowl, the thought occurred to me that I could try to find an artist who does Kintsugi, the recently-internet-popular Japanese art of repairing broken bowls with metal-mixed lacquer. My mother arrived on Saturday and when I told her of the bowl, she encouraged me not to worry, my life would be so different from my grandmother’s. I’ll probably get rid of the shards.
On February 18th a year ago, I made cinnamon rolls for the first time, trying to be affirmative about being more like Claire; cinnamon rolls were a specialty of hers. My father was visiting, and he was sitting at the kitchen table while I rolled out the dough on the table’s other end. Not noticing how close his water glass was to the table edge, I threw the rolling pin to the dough time after time until the glass fell to the floor and shattered. I grabbed some tools and got on my knees to start sweeping up the pieces. That glass, simple but cheerfully adorned with lemons, was one I kept from the time I lived with Claire. I cried, and Dad didn’t need to tell me my life would be so different from Claire’s.
Sometime in 2013, I was helping Claire cater a reception for a student recital at Indiana University in Bloomington. I would occasionally offer an extra arm to stir, but mostly I was entertaining myself in the living room while the alchemy happened in the kitchen. When all was prepped, I helped her load up the car and we drove off, a bit late. When we parked across the street from the venue, Claire loaded up her arms with so much that I warned her. She almost made it, but the sausage phyllo rolls fell and the dark blue serving bowl broke into pieces. I told her she tries to do too much, and it wasn’t until she apologized to the recitalist’s mother that she started to cry. I never apologized to Claire for scolding her, but I’m so glad she never stopped reaching.
My grandmother lived to be 95. She had six grandchildren and some of the next generation too. Sometimes I’m upset that Claire missed the opportunity to build a tree. I wonder about the dishes she would’ve passed down to her grandson. Other times I’m upset with myself, remembering easily that I scolded her, or that I broke up with her, leaving her to wander into a violent world. The pure loss settles in too, when I realize I lost my friend, someone who knew me fully, a great dancer, an imaginative mind, a musician, a dentist and all the other things she was.
Though I remember how heartbreaking it was to lose that lemon glass that fell to the floor a year ago, I’ve recently chosen to part with another gift from Claire, a heavy 12-inch skillet. The non-stick coating is long past the point that justifies continued use, and Claire herself would certainly disapprove of using the pan at this point, savvy as she was about public health concerns. So I went out and bought a new skillet, a brand new Calphalon one with a lid. Maybe it’s some solace that the skillet that replaced Claire’s was the one that broke my grandmother’s bowl and brought to mind all these memories. Even more so since I was using the new skillet to make a sauce from roux, a skill Claire taught me. She shaped my life by her gifts, her teaching, her words, and her love. As best I can, I’ll let her lessons and her life ripple through mine. For the few things I still have that were hers, I’ll treasure them while they last."
Tribute from Beth Mercke Bailey
Today's #TributeTuesday is from Beth Mercke Bailey at Associated Family Dental Care. Beth was Claire's classmate at University of Louisville School of Dentistry. What a wonderful idea to provide a free day in Claire's honor. She would LOVE this idea! ❤️
"Join us for our Free Dental Day in honor of one of the most beautiful, selfless people I ever had the pleasure of knowing. Claire was an amazing person who always put others before herself and wanted to help everyone in our community. If you're in the Lexington area and are in pain/ in need of dental treatment and can't afford it, please come see us Saturday, March 9th! #bemorelikeclaire"
Tribute by Liza Gant
Claire's cousin, Liza Gant, posted this tribute a few days ago. It's beautiful and heart wrenching and true. Thank you for letting us share it with Claire's Community.
Here are some things I know:
Life is beautiful, but it is brutal. It can be ugly and heart-wrenching and unfair.
It's easy to watch something devastatingly horrible happen to your family and fall into cynicism in order to protect yourself from the pain.
Don't. Feel deeply. Get passionate. Get pissed.
I am more sad than I am angry, but not by much. Non-physical domestic abuse (verbal, emotional, manipulation, intimidation, etc) is not universally seen for what it is. It is wicked. It is dangerous. It is the symptom of something much larger.
It is your aunt you've only met once because her husband has ostracized her from the family and she is too afraid to leave.
It is your friend's boyfriend who calls her every 30 minutes while she's out without him, making sure that she knows that there will be hell to pay if she doesn't get back home right when he wants her there.
It is the police saying there is nothing they can do. It is the refusal of a restraining order. It is the idea that if there are no visible marks and bruises, it can't be THAT bad.
It is my beloved cousin, the best person I know, getting shot on a cold January morning on her way to work, by her ex-boyfriend who had never previously laid a hand on her.
I know that am mournful, I am horrified, I am bewildered that there is enough evil in this world that something like this can happen. I am furious that my aunt is left without her daughter and best friend. I am furious that my cousins are left, two older brothers without their younger sister to pick on, protect, and love. My heart is shattered. My family lost our living-room dancer, karaoke champion, and one of our brightest lights.
And I know I am naive enough to think that there is still good in this world.
Claire-Bear... I am blessed to have grown up alongside you, to have shared so many belly-laughs and inside jokes, and to have had you as a constant motivation and inspiration. You loved me through all my junk, you made me laugh incessantly, and I really really really really really miss you.
Tribute by Maddie Ryan
Today's #TributeTuesday comes from Claire's long-term roommate and best friend Maddie Ryan. Thank you, as always, for your kind words, and for helping us further memorialize and remember our girl.
"My favorite things about Claire are her sense of humor and her love for others. From day one we shared a sense of humor that was both silly and strange.
She's the Ooms to my Dolla, we even made a blog celebrating our friendship. We loved to make up dances to songs that were not high quality, dressing up as Amy Winehouse or lumberjacks, watching bad television, and imitating the chipmunk from Disney's Enchanted.
One summer we spent every evening watching Twin Peaks. This was the beginning of "binge" watching television, around 2011-ish. Every night we would come back from class, lay down on the couch, and watch episode after episode. Then Claire got a cat. I was not a fan, it destroyed my furniture and was way too loud, but she won me over by naming it Cooper. Dale Cooper was our favorite character in Twin Peaks, a man who loved coffee and pie. Cooper became part of the family until our roommate ship ended on 7-14-12, a date Claire commemorated with a playlist because she is the sweetest, kindest and most silly person I've ever met!!
The love you could feel from this girl was unparalleled. She made you feel like you were way better at everything you did then you actually were. She bought her friends art, went to their performances, and cheered you on in even you most harebrained ideas. In college, she insisted that I put a portrait of myself on our shared mantle. It wasn't good or cute but I definitely felt loved. Even after college, she kept a Maddie original on her mantle of a woman holding a chainsaw. Why? because she loved me and was a weirdo.
As you can tell, she was an integral part of everything I did. I'm horrified that something so violent happened to someone I love. Losing her was sudden, abrupt, and devastating to everyone she came in contact with. Love you, Ooms forever and ever."