Lora Kassandra Wereb – 4/23/80 – 8/25/21
"I first met Lora Wereb in December of 2010, when I was cast as an evil German supervillain named Dr. Bonk in a short play performed during a party thrown by the Fishbon Arts Collective. This ridiculous piece of street theater was called “Dr. Bonk and the Great Christmas Tree Caper,” and Lora played my mischievous hench-cat, “Kitty,” dressed in a slinky, full-body leopard-print leotard. All I knew about her at the time was that she’d been away from California for a season or two, building bamboo stages for a music festival in Portugal. I liked the fact that she ended up in my lap in the final scene of every rehearsal… that much I knew. But mostly she kept aloof.
Little did I know that Lora was peeved at me for getting the title role. I had joined Fishbon in her absence, so she was thinking, “Who’s this guy, showing up out of nowhere, getting to be the star of the play?”
The night of the party, after a couple performances, I remember sitting atop the Pyrobar (a flame-throwing art vehicle) and staring down at Lora, who was not drinking, not chatting, not flirting… just absorbed in her airbrushing pen, painting one of the abstract wooden Christmas trees that populated the area. That intrigued me. She didn’t look up at me once that I remember. It was all about her and her art.
A season passed. And during the afterparty of the next Fishbon production, “Chartreuse,” I noticed Lora playing the “mama bear,” making the rounds to all the partiers to remind them to move their vehicles before they were towed off the street outside. That earned my respect. And her heart must have thawed towards me over the previous months, because later, upstairs by the bar… Lora, out of nowhere, pulled me in for a great big kiss. And for those who were there and can remember, we made out for about two hours straight, right in the middle of the Pescadrome lounge.
The next day, I took Lora out on a proper date to the beach. I laid out a blanket, poured some wine, and then her greyhound Chuck came zooming by and sprayed sand into everything. Over the next few months, our relationship grew, and I slowly became aware of all the worlds Lora was involved in. Of course, I knew her from Fishbon and the festival scene, where she was involved in theater, stage building, fire-spinning, airbrush art and mermaids. Then there was her veterinary technician world, assisting at animal hospitals - her main bread-and-butter. The world of photography had drawn her first to California so she could attend the Brooks School and learn a new craft, though she struggled with turning it into a full-time career.
Later, I learned that she was once a concert violinist and a lead vocalist back in Florida. She was also a star of the swing-dancing world, and event promoters would fly her and her friends to cities across the country to be the featured dancers at Big Band events. In the years we were together, she joined the horse endurance world. She also entered the world of environmental science education and taught students alongside me in the outdoor school I worked for. She started massage school and would have made a name for herself in that world, were it not for a broken leg and the pandemic. She even became part of the wine-tasting world, and she kept secret in her last few months that she was hired to run a small tasting room in Los Alamos. It wasn’t a money-maker, and I had to assist most days and cover for her when she felt sick from cancer, but it gave her pride and a sense of purpose when more physical jobs became too demanding.
See, Lora had this superpower, where she would be intrigued by a field of work or art and then instantly become an expert. She pulled off this feat time and time again. Her stubborn personality compelled her to pour energy into these passions, and that fascinated me. I loved that about her.
I got a glimpse of her fiery soul during our first summer at Burning Man. She lit up her fire fans and pushed back the crowds until she had an audience of a hundred people standing in a ring around her. Lora had the stunning ability to hold the gaze of an audience of that size and gaze fiercely back at them, unflinching. She loved being able to do that.
Her mama bear instincts revealed themselves on the Pyrobar out there. She managed to sweetly repel any douchebags by convincing them they needed to check out the twinkly lights on the other side of the playa. In this way, she protected us from the most obnoxious elements of Burning Man.
You could always count on Lora’s sense of snark. We know she could be harshly critical of anyone who wasn’t pulling their weight. She didn’t take fools lightly, as the saying goes. And I’m sure she was a pain in the butt to countless supervisors and co-workers. Once you earned her respect, however, she was a solid and loyal friend. She was sometimes teasing and sometimes blunt in her critiques, but Lora never felt the need to be everyone’s friend.
I think that was what drew Lora to the horse world. In the world of horse endurance, she didn’t need to depend on anyone else… just herself and her horse companion. Just after getting out of chemotherapy the first time, she adopted an abused and wounded horse named Merlin and healed alongside him until they were doing hundred-mile races in 24 hours. All while still taking oral chemotherapy to keep the cancer at bay. She didn’t need anyone else during the shorter 25 and 50-mile races… just an animal as stubborn as she was. And that, to her, I believe, was pure freedom.
Nine and a half years ago, Lora felt a lump in her breast. Within weeks, we learned how serious it was… not just breast cancer, but already Stage IV – in her lymph nodes and liver. She began chemotherapy. But Lora was young, and her body was strong. We still canoed down the Colorado River, went to festivals, hiked up Angel’s Landing in Zion, climbed a mountain in the Sierras and saw the solar eclipse. And she beat it… she kicked its ass, with only a small hiccup and the removal of several body parts as a preventative measure. A fundraiser party was held in her name, and people came together from all her worlds to help her and I get back on our financial feet again.
And so, we had six or seven years of time together before the cancer found a way back in. This time it was even more aggressive. It got into her spine, which then fractured in about six different places. Still, she managed to heal from that. She fought off the cancer, but it was hard. We took joy in shorter trips to Disneyland… to local hotels. A little over a month ago, she had a kyphoplasty surgery to expand a collapsed vertebrae and relieve pain in her lower extremities, which allowed us to go to Hawaii. She bought not one, but two ukuleles there. We took a helicopter around the island to see the locations where they shot Jurassic Park… a movie she’d always wanted to watch over and over and over again. We saw waterfalls and sea turtles, but mostly relaxed in our hotel room and by the swimming pool to conserve Lora’s strength.
One week ago, we almost had a party for her. But over the course of the night prior, her cancer finally came at her in full force. Just a few days later, Lora passed away. Twenty-four hours before her life reached its end, I heard Lora tell her nurse that she wanted to “peace out”. I didn’t take that to mean she wanted to die. She was simply ready to rest… for a few hours… or for forever… either would be all right.
The next day, Lora only laid in bed with her eyes closed, possibly sleeping. At one point in the afternoon, I told her how I loved her and how we all loved her… and she smiled - the one expression I saw on her face all day. Not long after that, I told Lora that it was okay to peace out. We would be okay. She had won. She had completed the hundred-mile race of her life, and she had won. Ten minutes later, she slipped away.
It’s not fair that she died. But whereas some people live their lives in only one world, Lora managed to live her life in ten. All right, maybe it’s technically only nine when I count them all. But that’s nine worlds… nine lives. She called herself “Miss Kitty” when playing one of her alter ego performance characters, so let us celebrate the wondrous, triumphant nine lives of Miss Kitty. Our Lora."
-Bryan Snyder, fiancé
Emiliana Avalos – December 13, 2014 – January 6, 2015
Que Los Angeles
Que los angeles te dirigan hasta el Paraiso; Que los martires vengan a darte la bienvenida y te lleven a la cuidad santa, la nueva y eterna Jerusalem. Que el coro de los angeles te den la bienvenida y te lleven al lado de Abraham, y alla a donde Lazarus es pobre no mas, encuentres descanso eterno. Que Jesus Cristo, quien te llamo, te lleve con el, el que dijo, “yo soy la resurreccion y la vida, el que vive y cree en mi nunca morira.”
---Our Shooting Star---
"We had her for a short time but we loved her so much. She changed our lives, for her mission was to bring love and hope to all the people that knew her and to remind us we need to live our lives one day at a time. Thank you, Megan, for the beautiful blanket. My daughter, Natalia, loves it. She sleeps with it every night. She says it makes her feel more closer to Emi. Thank you!!" -Guadalupe Avalos