Leela Rosalyn was born on Thanksgiving in 1955. She never went by Rosayln, her mother always called her Leela after the character in R.K.Narayan’s ‘The English Teacher’. Why her mother did so simply name her Leela to begin with is one of those great unanswerable questions. Leela grew up in Florida just down the road from the Kennedy Space Center and watched man’s quest for the Moon first hand. Her mother was a secretary for NASA and shared exciting stories about the astronauts and scientists she worked with.
When Leela was seventeen she joined the Navy and became a nurse. She served during the end of the Vietnam War and was stationed in Cuba when she met her future husband. He was a Marine pilot and the two fell in love, got married and moved to the El Toro Marine Base in Orange County, California. Leela went back to school on the GI Bill and became a psychologist, alongside her husband. They opened a practice together and had a baby girl, who they named Leela, after her mother. (PS: Two ultrasounds indicated they were going to be having a baby boy and after 27 hours of labor and a C-Section, there was a bit of surprise all around. As no girl names had been selected the couple dazedly named the child with the first name that came to mind!)
Leela was a wonderful mother, patient and understanding with clear boundaries. She raised her daughter to trust herself and not let the voices of others drown out her own. She taught her that hard work, gratitude and service to others often led to a happier Life than lazy indulgence. She showed her that no matter how royally you had screwed up, you could always dig out again if you just kept going.
When her daughter was thirteen, Leela divorced her husband after (he had had) a series of affairs. Now in her forties, Leela began anew. She found a new job, got her own place and proceeded to support her daughter when her ex-husband lost his business. She put her daughter through college and made a new Life for herself. When her daughter moved to a foreign country to teach, she was proud and sad and happy, all at the same time. When she moved back and went to graduate school, Leela helped in any way she could and delighted in having her daughter close once more. The two traveled together, visiting the California Missions, taking the train to Seattle and renting an RV to cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway.
Then Leela developed numbness in her right hand. Dismissing it as carpal tunnel at first, she finally went in to see a doctor and was told the tremor was caused by a tumor in her brain. The tumor was metastatic, meaning it had come from somewhere else. Leela was diagnosed in October 2011 with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. She had a year or so to live.
Leela immediately retired and moved in with her daughter. The two traveled more, went to the spa a lot and generally enjoyed Life. They talked about the Life they had shared, the dog they both loved and the future they would no longer have together. Leela told her daughter to live well, to be strong and to dance, always dance. Leela died on May 29th, 2012. She was an amazing woman, incredibly strong and courageous in the face of death. Her bravery was inspiring to witness and her love was endless. She is gone now, but she is remembered by her friends, her daughter and you.
– Leela, Home