On the evening of Saturday, January 29, 2022, our sun, moon, and stars dimmed, and a crushing, grieving sorrow darkened our souls, for we all lost Elaine Tran Lenahan, a singularly amazing person. Though she was always the most beautiful woman in any room she entered, it was also true that her love and kindness were unbounded, her intellect never second best, and — as she often said — she was “objectively funny.”
Her parents, Hien & Phu Tran, and her big brothers, Vinh & Chris, welcomed “Tran Le Chi Lan” into the world in Saigon in October of 1972. They called her “Lan.” Her little brother, Tai, completed their young family two years later.
Mere months after, in April of 1975, they had to take refuge on the sea in a tiny boat to save their lives. From the tiny boat, to a bigger boat, to Guam, and then in a plane to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. There, Pastor Darwin Scott — on behalf of a small Baptist Church in the small Texas town of Palestine — met the family, adored Elaine, took to calling her “Chi Lan,” and sponsored them into a two-room, white, wood-siding home on Sycamore Street, next to the church, which is why Elaine gratefully described her faith as “Buddhist-Baptist.”
And the refugee family did what Elaine wants you to know many refugee families have always done and always will do: they fled with nothing, then flourish in freedom. All four children attended the University of Texas — as roommates — with “Elaine Lan Le Tran” graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Radio-Television-Film, with Honors, in less than four years.
She then enrolled at SMU Law School, where she won moot court competitions, was elected Vice President of the Student Bar Association and — in her third year — was royally catfished by a deeply in-debt, and even more deeply in love, Marc Christopher Lenahan.
On December 11, 1999, Marc and Elaine performed a traditional Vietnamese tea ceremony at their DFW home (DFW Airport, not metroplex) in the morning, bade each other their troths in the evening at Highland Park United Methodist Church (never learning exactly what “bade” or “troth” mean), and set off on their life together as husband and wife, with her new name: Elaine Tran Lenahan.
The day after her 28th birthday, Elaine earned her favorite name of all — “Mom” — when she gave birth to Maxwell Henry, her “Bunny.” And again, three years and three months later, to Emerson Dao, her “Sweetness.”
In between the two births, she made Partner at Thompson Coe, working alongside so many she considered true friends.
But in 2015, she walked away from her “promising future” as a lawyer to instead live in her “cherished present” as a mother. And that decision led to the happiest, proudest, and most fulfilling years of her life. Elaine believed in the gardening metaphor for parenting: protect her children from harm, and nourish them always, but let them grow wherever they may. There was nothing more beautiful in her eyes than her Max and Emme, and every day it was her delight to watch them grow into the surpassingly splendiferous individuals that they are. But you already knew that because she’d share/brag about her moments of joy over them every single time you two talked.
In her spare time, she volunteered at, and fought for, the kids’ schools; represented young victims in Federal District Courts when their perpetrators were being prosecuted; unhesitatingly made time for lunches with her friends, dinners with her parents, and texts with her brothers; read the print edition of the New York Times every Sunday; cried at weddings and movies; and always laughed hardest at herself.
All the while, she never let the husband who loved her beyond all measure ever doubt that she loved him, too. Hand in hand, Marc & Elaine travelled with Max & Emme to France, England, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Monaco, Austria, Switzerland, Vatican City, Mexico (the kids didn’t get to go to Mexico), Canada, the Bahamas, Slovakia, and Andy’s Custard. Elaine often told Marc to hurry up and retire so that they could begin to search the world for their next home, a sweet little place in a walkable town or village, but big enough for Max & Emme — and the future grandkids, of course — to visit any time they wanted.
But we lost her. And we should mourn our loss because it is a great loss. To each of us. And to the whole world. And to Nordstrom.
At the moment Elaine fell suddenly ill, she was sitting on the hearth of her Coppell home with her husband of 22 years at her side, her children within arm’s reach, her parents at hand, and Vinh, Jenny, and their three children all there. She passed just hours later without fear or ever suffering. She was only 49.
On her side, she leaves behind her parents, Hien & Phu. And her brother Vinh; his wife Jenny; and their three children, Jake, Luke & Kara. Her brother Chris, and his wife Gina. And her little brother Tai; his wife Randi; and their son Andrew.
On Marc’s side, Elaine was predeceased by Marc’s mother, Joan, whose dress Elaine wore at her & Marc’s wedding. Elaine is survived by Marc’s father Roderick. And Marc’s brother Scott; and Scott’s children, Maddie and Aiden. And Marc’s brother Todd, and Todd’s husband Johnny.
At home, Marc, Max and Emme will miss her forever.
In lieu of flowers, please consider doing what Elaine did by registering as an organ donor (DonateLifeTexas.org); supporting needy children in Vietnam (BlueDragon.org); and treasuring all the love in your life.