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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Lauren Hyde watched the movie, engrossed in it.

All the game film the senior Gator had seen didn't compare to this particular film.

The home video hurled a wave of nostalgia as Lauren watched to see a glimpse of the past embodied in the VHS cassette. She saw her family surrounding the picture-perfect Christmas tree towering over the crisply gift-wrapped presents waiting to be ripped open.

Lisa Hyde, Lauren's mother, went all out for the holidays, including Christmas. She went through painstaking measures to make sure everything was perfect: garland strung around the stairwell and fireplace - complete with stockings.

If there's one reason above any other Lauren is watching her home video, it's that it predates Sept. 18, 2005. That's the day Lisa lost her fight against breast cancer and the day a tape-recorded version of her meant infinitely more to her daughter.

Bad to Worse

Bill Hyde, the patriarch of the Hyde household, knew the uphill battle his family would have to endure with Lisa's hospital visits and checkups and the looming possibility of death, suppressed in the recesses of their minds.

"Dealing with it 13 years, you're prepared right from the start in 1992 that this could be bad," Bill said.

In 2005, there was swelling in Lisa's abdomen. Her liver wasn't doing well.

She took a round of chemotherapy on Friday, Sept. 9, 2005. Chemotherapy had worked before in 1993 and Lisa had rebounded fine after a few sick days. Lisa woke up Saturday in a noticeably delusional state, a first-time change Lauren noticed for the worse. Lisa's liver was failing, causing her delirious behavior, and she needed to be hospitalized.

There were times Lisa mistook Bill to be her own father instead of her husband.

Bill usually didn't correct her. He just carried on with the conversation.

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Friday, Sept. 16, 2005.

Lauren was in her technical theater class, helping build the set for the fall play when she was pulled from her class. It was around 11 a.m.

Her sister, Lindsey, was in Spanish class. She, too, was called down to the office.

They had an unexpected phone call. It was their father, letting them know they were needed in the hospital.

Bill had been informed the previous Monday that his wife may not live out the week. Lauren said she never knew the extent of her mother's cancer and she didn't want to know the possibility that her mother might pass. She didn't believe the opinion that Lisa wouldn't live out the week until she saw it manifest itself in that hospital room.

"I'm glad no one ever said (that she may not make it) because I don't like that," Lauren said. "They don't know."

That same week, amid the routine prayers, the crossword puzzle games and the air of grief that filled Lisa's room, there was a tightening of the Hyde family unit.

Lauren said her close-knit family grew even closer that week.

"Out of all my friends, I'm the closest to my family easily and everyone will tell you that," she said.

Turtle Park

When Lauren wants to think of the memories she shared with her mom, she has one picture in mind. It's a picture of Lauren, Lisa, Lindsey and Christina, the youngest sister. It's a photo of them on a bridge at "Turtle Park." Aptly nicknamed because there were turtles in one area of the park, Lauren has the image committed to memory and remembered walking along the bridge the day the photograph was taken.

As the casual, only-a-couple-of-classes-deep photographer, Lisa had pictures throughout the Hyde household that still hang intact, just as she hung them.

Bill met his wife at work and was attracted to Lisa's looks - blonde-haired, green-eyed with an athletic figure, measuring in at roughly 5-foot-7 - and her hardworking, no-nonsense demeanor.

Lisa became a stay-at-home mom once Lauren turned 2. She cleaned, cooked, drove the kids to school and made after-school snacks.

"She always put us first and just a true mom to me," Lindsey said.

Lauren said what she loved most about her mom was the fact that Lisa was always in her children's lives.

"(A) great mom in terms of the detail and attention she gave her kids," Bill said.

As early as they were able, Lauren and Lindsey were picking up after themselves and learning responsibility. Their chore list would grow to include making beds, vacuuming, dusting and cleaning three rooms in the house on Saturdays.

Lisa wouldn't have had it any other way.

For a woman who ran her house tightly, the diagnosis of breast cancer in 1992 may have turned then-29-year-old Lisa's world topsy-turvy. On the contrary, her will and effort to keep everything in order was unwavering thereafter.

"She inspired me because I knew that she wasn't feeling well and she would just push herself," family friend Cara Hellmich said.

Hellmich said Lisa would go on walks and do activities with her children, seemingly unhindered by her cancer.

Lisa was no stranger to Lauren's friends and school background, either. She would attend Lauren's high school and club soccer games and provide honest criticism while still being her daughter's No. 1 cheerleader.

Cyclone to Gator

Beginning at age 8 or 9, soccer became a principal influence in Lauren's life. She began playing the sport after attending a camp introduced to her by Lisa. A sports nut himself, Bill quickly introduced his children to baseball and softball before soccer entered the equation.

"From that point on, (Lauren) didn't want to do anything else," Bill said.

Having been athletic and quick for her age, Lauren excelled at soccer.

In middle school, she worked her way up to the Carmel Cyclones, the club team she played for in Indiana. The team didn't pick up Lauren after her tryouts, but changed its mind after she scored six goals in an indoor tournament.

She continued playing on the club team and joined her high school team in her sophomore year. Her year-round soccer exposure sparked college interest, and Lauren committed to UF in March of her junior year.

Lisa made plans to spend the first two weeks of college with Lauren to ease the transitional period. She even bought an orange jacket with blue stripes in a visual display of support for the colors of Lauren's soon-to-be university. The jacket still hangs in her closet. Lauren said if it fits, she would wear it.

Lauren, who said she plays her best when people are watching, was the only Gators freshman in her class to start every match and earned third-team All-America honors her sophomore year.

"What makes her so talented is her vision of the field," said teammate Jessica Eicken.

Eicken, also a senior, characterized her relationship with Lauren as a sisterly one.

"If you want something to get done right and done fast, let her take care of it," Eicken said.

Handling Grief

Before, during and after Lisa's passing, soccer was one of Lauren's few comforts. When she's playing soccer, she's not thinking about anything else.

"I would definitely say I sought it out," Lauren said. "It was nice to be able to have that couple hours of just nothing."

Her soccer career was never in jeopardy after her mother's passing because Lauren knew Lisa wouldn't have wanted her to stop playing. Her mom was thrilled about her daughter attending UF.

And when she wasn't strapped into cleats and shin guards, she was armed with movies and playing cards for euchre.

Lauren spent the weekends at friends' places, something she'd never done before her junior year. Her newfound group of best friends, formed a month before Lisa's passing, served as an emotional cornerstone for Lauren to rely on.

"My friends in high school came around at the perfect time," she said.

In Carmel Bishop Chatard High School - where her own graduating class numbered 180 - Lauren felt comfortable with everyone knowing who she was as an athlete and person.

She didn't mind that all her peers knew about her mother, because it meant she didn't have to explain being pulled out of class or why her mother stopped showing up at games. It meant no special treatment for the girl whose mother passed away. And that was OK with Lauren.

Katie Glesing, one of Lauren's classmates at Bishop Chatard, said the smaller class size allowed for deeper connections between people.

"Everyone says by your senior year at Chatard, you'll feel like a family," Glesing said.

"And we really did."

Glesing remembered listening to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" with Lauren en route to celebrate a friend's birthday. Nobody would have guessed her mother was in the hospital that night.

While Lauren may not have externally seemed affected by Lisa's passing, internally she has become infinitely more appreciative of everyone in her life because she realized how instantaneously someone could be gone.

And when soccer and her friends couldn't provide that buffer against grief, Lauren turned to religion, praying nightly after her mother passed away and asking God for guidance.

Four years removed from her mother's death, Lauren still prays, but she has come to grips with it and believes Lisa is always with her in spirit. Lauren is glad to call life normal with dad, aka Mr. Mom, and her sisters.

"How much Lauren's developed and the positive things she's done," Bill said, "really comes from her mom."

And while the Hyde household is down a member, Lisa's presence still looms in her children - and their home videos.

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