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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Saying Good-Bye to Annie

Annie and DJ were born on the same day. DJ is older by four hours. They met for the first time in my piano studio when they were nine years old and hated each other on sight. Annie was loud and constantly vying for attention. DJ was quiet and loved group lessons where we played games and learned about music history and performed music. They would sit at opposite ends of the studio and glare at one another.

About a year after Annie began studying with me, I had need to reduce my studio. Darrin had gone back to school and I had taken a job teaching general music in one of the local elementary schools. Annie was one of the students I referred to a different teacher, mainly because I thought it would help reduce DJ's stress when she was present. I actually enjoyed teaching Annie. She was incredibly talented, though undisciplined, but she had a lovely enthusiasm for life, and she always had a song she wanted to sing for me. She was a joyful person.

As often happens, Annie and DJ continued to cross paths. Both being talented musicians, they performed in the same groups; being the same age, they shared classes; and their pool of friends were basically the same, so around their thirteenth year, they called a truce and decided to be friends. The friendship flourished. They began a tradition of celebrating their shared birthday together--going to lunch or exchanging silly gifts or just spending time with their friends.

By the time they graduated, DJ and Annie were fast friends. When an opening at the cut-rate theater where Annie worked became available, she made certain that DJ was hired--not because he needed the job, but just because it would be fun to work together. There was never a spark of romance, but always a closeness of knowing they somehow were bound together and that life was better because of that.

Last year Annie began acting strangely. She forgot important events (like work schedules and the DJ/Annie birthday celebration). DJ was frustrated. She wouldn't talk to him, and denied that anything was different. Then one day Annie's sister called the theater. Annie would not be coming into work. She had seen some doctors that day and was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. People don't often survive stage four brain cancer

I didn't know how to talk about this with DJ. I asked how he was feeling. He hugged me in his huge bear hug and said, "It's okay, Mom. I've fasted and prayed about this. Annie is going to be all right. I know it."

I didn't tell DJ that sometimes "all right" still means people die. I just hugged him back and said to be sure to visit her often and help her stay encouraged and strong. And for a year, DJ did just that.

Six weeks ago it became obvious that Annie was dying. I watched as DJ struggled through anger and frustration, and sorrow. Annie passed away the day I came home from my surgery. I had no opportunity to visit prior to her death, but probably that's okay. She was overwhelmed with pain and had little knowledge of who was with her or what was happening.

I told DJ it was okay to feel whatever came--no matter what that feeling was. And I told him to find the places he felt safe and be sure to cry for his friend. He said he would.

DJ was asked to give the eulogy at Annie's wake. He wrote a beautiful tribute to his friend listing all the things he learned from her during her short lifetime. But he was worried about being understood as he spoke, knowing it would be difficult not to cry as he delivered the eulogy and he wanted his words to be heard.

The day before Annie's wake, a neighbor brought dinner for our family. She included a bag of miscellaneous "stuff". She said, "Probably you don't need these things, but they're kind of fun and I just felt like giving them to your family." There was a terracotta garlic keeper, a mortar and pestle, a whisk, and a tiny green wind chime shaped like an owl. As she had said, they were kind of fun.

DJ walked in as I was going through the bag. I saw his hand reach out and take the wind chime. His eyes were larger than normal, and he said, "Mom, can I have this?" I laughed. DJ has always collected odd things. I said, yes, and asked why he wanted it.

His answer: "Annie collected owls. We usually exchanged them on our birthdays. This can be my present from her this year."

So DJ delivered his eulogy the next day, his hand curled around a tiny green owl given to us by a neighbor who had never met Annie and had no idea the impact her miscellaneous gifts would have.

I don't know what other people believe about God or no god or kismet or the universe or coincidence, but in my heart, I'm really glad that someone or something knows the beauty of my Dj's heart and they're looking out for him. Who knows? Perhaps it's Annie.


  1. How terribly sad. I'm sorry for DJ's loss.

  2. This was a beautiful post. So sorry for your loss.