Mike Regenstreif remembers Laura Smith (1952-2020)
Beloved east coast singer-songwriter Laura Smith passed away yesterday at the age of 67 after a brief battle with cancer. Mike Regenstreif was one of many in the Canadian Roots Music community who was touched by her friendship. Mike is an Ottawa-based writer and broadcaster who has written about folk and roots music since the 1970s for Sing Out! Magazine, the Montreal Gazette and other Canadian newspapers – among many other accomplishments. He was the recipient of the 2014 Ottawa Folk Festival Helen Verger Award for “significant, sustained contributions to folk/roots music in Canada.” And in 2017, he was one of the inaugural inductees into the Folk DJ Hall of Fame created by Folk Alliance International. Mike blogs about folk music at Folk Roots Folk Branches. He wrote this remembrance of Laura there and agreed to share it with us. Thank you, Mike.
“Safe home, sweet light, no longer of this world
On wings, safe and sound you are carried
No longer casting shadows, no longer counting days
You are love and you are loved always”
My friend Laura Smith wrote “Sweet Home, Sweet Light” as a farewell song to a brother and an old friend after losing both around the same time in July 2012. Last night, I was deeply saddened to learn, via an email from Ross MacDonald, that Laura “passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by love, joy, music and compassion from her family of friends in Mahone Bay,” and immediately went to her album Everything is Moving to find comfort in her voice, her music, and particularly in the words of that poignant and beautiful song. Laura was 11 days shy of her 68th birthday.
This news was not unexpected. Just a couple of months ago, Laura was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer and elected to receive palliative care at home. With the support of friends and fans from near and far, she was able to spend her final weeks peacefully reading so many messages from those who loved her. On February 15, she spoke so bravely on the phone with Chris White on CKCU’s Canadian Spaces about her “life challenging” situation. But, still, this news was hard.
In the 1990s, Laura’s recordings were staples on the Folk Roots/Folk Branches radio show I hosted on CKUT in Montreal. Her reimagined version of the traditional “My Bonny” was one of the most requested songs on the show. I met Laura for the first time in 1997 when she was my guest on the show. It took only one conversation to form a bond of friendship with her. After I moved to Ottawa, I was honoured, in 2013 and 2015, that Laura asked me to MC both of her concerts at the National Arts Centre.
Laura overcame a number of difficult struggles in her life – struggles that she faced with much grace and dignity. Although she has left this earthly life, she will live on in the beautiful, elegant and timeless songs she left behind.
“Safe home, sweet heart, no longer beating here
Your life is but a whisper to my sorrow
But time does not confine you now, my spirits I must raise
You are love and you are loved always
You are love, you are love, you are loved always
Safe home, sweet light, no longer shining here
Though your joy is now a beacon for the weary
Never more to shed a tear, never more to feel alone
You are love and you are loved, you’re home
You are love and you are loved, you’re home…home…
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And on Facebook. facebook.com/mikeregenstreif
Lovely writing, Mike, and thanks for publishing this, Heather. I only met Laura once, at Hugh’s room to shoot some video in 2013. She was so kind and warm, and the performance we witnessed was one of the finest I ever experienced in that room.