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By Ken Begley

“Look through the windshield, not the rearview mirror.”

Lauran’s favorite quote

Washington County High School had its graduation a couple of weeks ago.  There were 143 graduates, and I’m sure each had a story to tell.  But none could be more compelling or inspiring than Miss Lauran Elizabeth Yates’ journey to that special night.  

Lauran’s story is one of courage, fortitude, and faith in God.  Her road to graduation was neither short nor easy.  It was filled with endless roadblocks and heartaches that would have stopped most ordinary people cold.  But Miss Yates is anything but ordinary.

Lauran is the daughter of Joe B. and Susie Yates.  She entered high school a healthy, athletic, friendly, and beautiful young lady.  She loved sports and played volleyball, track, basketball, and golf.  She’s the type of outgoing person that all parents wish their child could be.  

Everything was proceeding well until the beginning of her sophomore year when she took a physical for volleyball.  Problems surfaced that were later determined to be kidney trouble.

It wasn’t a small problem.  

It was a major, life-changing event.  This became evident by the end of December.  She would become sick and swell so much that you could touch her and the fingerprint would stay on her skin for some time.  

Lauran was so sick and seeing the doctor so much that she could rarely attend classes with all her friends.  Her course work came from WCHS, but she was more or less home schooled from that point on.  This had to have been devastating for such a social person as herself.   

Now, you’re probably thinking that this would be the end of the story, right?  You know, about some poor, sick little girl living a lonely life at home.  Some kid that would give up on life and be bitter or angry, right?

Well, you’d be wrong.  

You’d be so wrong.

It must come from her lineage.  There were 13 kids in both her mother’s and father’s families.  She has a mix of Wheatley and Yates blood coursing through her veins.  These are a strong and tenacious people in their own right, and it’s evident that Lauran received a double dose of those qualities.

Lauran slugged it out through her high school years.  

She fought to not just graduate, but also to keep a good grade point average.  Can you imagine how hard this would be?  She took whole courses with little interaction with the actual teacher!  She had to study while suffering though illnesses!  She had to concentrate while taking powerful medicines!  Tell me how many people, young or old, you know of who could have done the same!  

I asked Lauran what got her though this period of her life.  

She didn’t hesitate to respond by saying it was because of friends.  

It was friends like Morgan Thomas, who would bring her notes and help tutor her on classes they took together.  It was friends like Amber Fields, who would call and check on her frequently to see how she was doing.  I’m sure there were others, but I failed to get their names.  Lauran said that when you’re sick for so long, you really get to know who your friends are, and she had many.

She talked about her godmother, Laurita Wheatley, who would bring her the special food from Louisville she needed for the diet she had to follow.

Lauran talked of her mother, who would always be there helping and encouraging her to keep her grades up through this ordeal.  She taught her to never give up.  

She talked of her last living grandmother, Mary Helen Yates, who would call her every day and send her prayer cards up until she herself was called home by God last February.

Finally, she told me of her dad.  She already had his “heart” and this last winter he gave her a kidney for a transplant to replace her failing ones.

Lauran told me that after she got sick, she turned more to God.  She prayed her rosary every night and came to believe there was no point in being mad at the world.  She said the grass always looks greener on the other hill, but really isn’t.  Lauran only looks forward, and never back.  

There is one message she wanted me to send to the people of this county.  She said that she was overwhelmed by the cards and letters she received wishing her well during her many trials and tribulations.  She wanted everyone to know that she read every one and was most grateful.  She wasn’t able to always respond because she was frequently too sick most of the time.  It was important to her that you know this.

So, how did I feel after talking to this beautiful young woman, so wise and strong beyond her years?

Deeply humbled.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot.  Lauran Elizabeth Yates graduated Suma Cum Laude at WCHS as part of the Class of 2009.  You can’t get any higher academic honor than that.  She heads off to Western Kentucky University this fall and will room with Lauren White.

So, I end this by saying something to Joe and Susie Yates.

I would ask God to bless your family.

But He already did.

He sent you Lauran.