I hear a lot lately about how I’ve gone silent. I’d apologize, but I’m not going to because 2019 has kicked me so many times that I’ve been unable to get up. I could give you a laundry list of terrible things that have happened to me – like a tree root in my main sewer line – but events over the last 3 weeks make them all seem like silly little fruit flies circling a rotten banana.
What’s worse than me ending up in the hospital?
The worst thing that could possibly happen to any parent or any kind of parent. Period. You know what I mean.
Saturday March 30th, I was at the grocery store when my husband called me in a panic. My friend Melia, whom Ana had been teaching Portuguese to on Saturday mornings, stopped by to see if Ana was okay. “She’s late for our lesson.”
Ana had been working late into many nights doing homework for all her AP classes (which, by the way, she had all high A’s in…) while also playing the Scarecrow in her school’s production of The Wiz. We assumed she was sleeping late. However, when my husband knocked on her door, she didn’t respond.
“She’s breathing,” he said. We called an ambulance, thinking maybe she'd had a seizure or was suffering from exhaustion. But we weren’t so lucky.
A couple of hours later, while my parents and I waited outside the trauma room at the hospital, the doctors told me Ana had suffered a catastrophic brain aneurysm and it was not survivable. I spent all week fighting the denial … healthy 17-year-old dancers aren’t supposed to just die … no sickness, no signs, just gone. While her biological family gathered from Brazil, she was kept on life support, but a week later, after testing confirmed brain death, she was taken off life support.
I keep expecting to see her cooking eggs in the morning, or dancing into the kitchen telling me, often way too loudly, about some new TV show or book she was obsessed with. It’s hard to let my exchange students go home, but this is a new feeling for me. I know I’ll never be able to fly to Brazil and have her show me around. She’ll never come back and be a boomerang student or go to American college. She was supposed to take the SAT Saturday; she wanted to go to an Ivy league school.
Ana wanted to be a writer. In many ways she reminded me of myself when I was a senior in high school. Too much ambition. A people pleaser. Always wanting to be a writer and _______ (teacher/psychologist/model/party planner/mother), because we always had to have a backup. Ana was just way more outgoing than I am. I was more of a wallflower. And I was never one for poetry.
Ana, however, was an extraordinary poet. Going through her stuff, I found lots of notebooks with poems in them. We had to confirm that these were her poems and not some famous Brazilian poet. Some were in Portuguese and some in English. They are exquisite and deserve to be read by the public, allowing Ana to achieve her dream of becoming a published author. It will take some time, especially with some translating having to happen, but I will keep everyone updated. And, if you want to donate to her memorial fund, which also includes publication of her poetry, you can check that out here.
She also made the front page of the city newspaper.
I live in Athens, Georgia, with my son, my husband, and an ever-revolving list of exchange students, who are a never-ending source of entertainment and writing material.