That Inevitable Question

When you lose someone you love, there are certain situations you just don't want to deal with. There are the obvious ones like anniversaries of the day it happened, birthdays, holidays, etc. It is harder to face those moments without them, but at least you have some preparation. It's the moments you're not prepared for, that happen when you least expect it, that stop you dead in your tracks, that hurt the most.

Today, I had one of those moments. I was at an appointment and the lady was making an innocent attempt at making small talk. "What are you doing this weekend?" "What are you studying in school?" "How's the weather?" But then, then she asked the question. The inevitable question that was bound to get asked at some point, especially when making small talk. "Do you have any siblings?"

It has been a year and 2 months since Anna passed away. It is certainly not the first time I've been asked that. But for some reason, I can't recall it happening before. Perhaps I knew it was coming and had time to prepare. Perhaps it has never happened. I don't really know.

What I do know is that today that question caught me off guard. I paused for a moment and felt awkward for pausing before answering. It's normally a simple question that requires an automatic answer. I've been answering it my whole life with "Yes, I have a sister who's 3 years younger than me." But it's no longer that simple. It takes a decision; do I tell this well-meaning complete stranger who I met 5 minutes ago that my one and only sister fought a long and hard battle with cancer and unfortunately didn't survive? Do I simply say I had a sister and leave at that?

I didn't say either one of those things. What I did say? "No." And I immediately felt guilty. I have a sister. And not only do I have a sister, I have a pretty amazing one. She's the strongest, most beautiful inside and out, amazing person I know. I am proud to call myself her sister. So why did I answer no? Why would I deny that I have an amazing sister?

I told myself that it was easier. That I didn't want to explain my life story to a complete, well-meaning stranger. But why not? I have so much to tell. Especially because my sad story about losing my one and only sister has a happy twist. She left an amazing legacy. She touched an unmeasurable amount of people. And she has an amazing foundation started in her memory that is doing great things and touching more peoples lives in her memory. Why couldn't I tell her that?

The answer is, I don't know. Lots of reasons, I suppose. Because I hate that look of pity you get after you tell someone. Because when I have to answer that question unexpectedly, I can't dive into my immediate "speech" I have developed to tell the story without having to feel the emotions associated with it.  Because it is awkward telling a complete stranger the most personal, raw thing about you.

But none of that matters as much as carrying on her legacy. As much as honoring her memory. She will always, always be a part of my life. She is never far from my mind and always in my heart.  It is something I am going to have to deal with the rest of my life, and it may never get easier to tell someone that my sister is in heaven now and not with us on Earth, but I owe it to her and her memory to do it.

Miss you, beautiful angel. I will love you always.... 

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For A Dancer

(First I feel the need to apologize for my long absence. The only excuse I have for my lack of posts is life got in the way. But I'm back and hoping to update more regularly. Hopefully some of you are still out there reading!) 

"I absolutely, completely, 100% despise Cancer and wish with all my being that it didn't exist." This was the only thing going through my mind this weekend as I sat at my third funeral in less than a year. The third funeral for someone close to me. The third funeral for someone who died way too young and way too soon. The third funeral that cancer caused.

My Aunt Heather was one of the greatest people I've ever known. She was full of life, she was so kind and caring, she had a contagious smile and laugh, and a contagious positive attitude. She was, to put it simply, amazing. We didn't see her too often growing up, but when we did, I always looked forward to it. Having 2 boys, she loved to take Anna and I to do "girly" things when we would come to visit. She was always planning a trip to go shopping, to get our nails done or even have a tea party. And of course, we didn't complain a bit! We loved being spoiled by our Aunt Heather.

When she got sick last year, it was right in the middle of when things started going downhill with Anna, so I already had a lot on my mind. It was hard to wrap my head around someone else in my family being sick. How is it possible that within 2 years, 2 of my family members were diagnosed with cancer? I couldn't even begin to understand it. I kept up with her journey through CaringBridge, and through updates from my mom. But at times, life got busy and I got behind with the CaringBridge updates and I just thought she was doing ok. I knew the initial diagnosis was not good; her surgeon told her she had, at best, a year to live. But Aunt Heather was determined and a fighter, so we all that she would beat the odds. Last I had heard, she was doing well. Until she wasn't. It was then I realized I was going to lose another family member to cancer and I couldn't begin to understand how in the world this was fair.

My first thought was for my cousins. Although I unfortunately understand the pain of losing someone you love to cancer, I can't even imagine it being your mom. The day I found out she wasn't going to live much longer, it was my cousins 18th birthday. How awful, I thought, to lose your mom at such an important time in your life. He's getting ready to graduate and go to college and now he has to do that without his mom. My heart breaks for him, my other cousin and my uncle.

When I first learned that I was coming to this funeral this weekend and shared that with a friend, the first question I was asked was "were you close to her?" This question made me stop in my tracks for a minute because how do you really answer that? Did we keep in touch on a regular basis? No. Did I see her often? Not really. But I felt a special bond with her that makes us close. The advice she gave me and the talks we had were really special to me. I remember at Thanksgiving, which seems like yesterday, she took me to get my nails done. It was just the two of us and we got to talk about anything and everything and I absolutely loved the one on one time we had. She had a way of making you feel so special and so loved. So, were we close? I don't know. But I do know that I will always miss her smile, her laugh and especially her hugs. I felt as if I was going back to see her this weekend and catch her up on my life, when in fact, I was going to her memorial. How I wish that wasn't the case...

To further prove what a big heart and how generous Aunt Heather was here is one of my favorite stories. A few months ago, I jokingly posted on Facebook that I needed a generous fan to fund my blog redesign. I was bored with the way it looked and wanted something more grown up. "Any takers!?" I posted. "Me! Me! Me!", my Aunt Heather immediately wrote back. "Seriously, I do," she told me, "I would love to." So this blog design? Is a tribute to my Aunt Heather. How appropriate that is purple, which was her favorite color.

Although this weekend just reaffirmed my absolute hatred for cancer, it also taught me a lot. Listening to all the wonderful things people had to say about my Aunt made me reevaluate the way I live my life. It made me view all my relationships and think about if I am appreciating them enough. My cousin Patrick spoke at the memorial and described what he and my cousin Steven coined "the Heather Redford Effect." He pointed out that it seemed as though every person my Aunt came into contact with left feeling as though they had just made a new best friend. She truly touched everyone she ever met and that is beyond inspiring. He challenged us all to pass it on. It is up to us, he told us, to pass on the Heather Redford effect. Be kind to others. Appreciate those that you have in your life, and don't take them for granted. And live life to the fullest. We don't know what tomorrow will bring. As one of her friends who spoke at the memorial said, if we wait until we have the right money or the right body or everything to be perfect to do the things we want to do, we will never do it. I think we all walked away from that memorial feeling, of course, very sad, but also inspired. Aunt Heather was amazing and changed a lot of people. We can all learn a lesson from the way she lived her life.

There was a poster up in their house this weekend with a picture of her and a quote that I think is absolutely perfect for my Aunt Heather: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather by skidding in sideways, champagne in one hand, strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, 'WOO-HOO What a Ride!!!'" This is exactly how she lived her life; to the fullest. And I am now reminded to do the same. 

It is true what "they" (whoever "they" are) say... only the good die young. My Aunt Heather and Anna were two of the most amazing, fun, free-spirited, inspirational people I know. I could go on and on about how amazing they are. I will never understand why they had to be taken from us so soon, but I am sure they are having on heck of a time together up in heaven complete with tea parties, mani/pedis and lots of dancing! :) I am grateful for the lessons that losing them has taught me, although I would trade those for having them back any day. 

Rest in peace, Aunt Heather. You are truly loved and missed. Give Anna one of your awesome hugs for me... 

My Aunt Heather requested that this song be played at her memorial, and I think it truly sums up how so many of us feel about death and dying, and it reminds me so much of the way Aunt Heather lived her life. The title of this post was obviously inspired by this song. 

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Good News Will Work Its Way to All Them Plans

When Anna passed away, I was given a lot of advice, told a lot of inspirational things and supported to the max. However, out of all of those words of advice and inspirational quotes, etc. one thing stuck in my head all these months, and until now I didn't really know why.

One of Anna's favorite songs was Float On by Modest Mouse. She liked it so much and found it inspirational through her battle with cancer that she had it tattooed on her wrist. Today, the simple words "Float on", not to mention the song itself are almost synonymous with Anna; if you knew her or at least knew of her you most likely associate "Float On" with her. At the time of her passing, I'd heard the song a few times and knew it was a favorite of Anna's but wasn't overly familiar with the lyrics. That night, after everyone left and it finally hit me that I was going to have to live the rest of my life without my sister (a feeling I will never, ever forget) I was doing what any normal person would do doing what a social media freak would do using the internet to express my feelings and tweeting about it. One of Anna's friends wrote me back with the lyrics from Float On "Bad news comes, don't you worry even when it lands. Good news will work its way to all them plans." At the time, I didn't think much of it other than that I liked it a lot. It gave me hope that maybe something good can come out of this.

Today, on the 8 month anniversary of her passing, I can say with absolute certainty that good news worked its way to all them plans. So many amazing things have happened in Anna's memory. First, we got to visit with her favorite band and hear how much she changed them. We participated in Red Balloon Race for the hospital she was treated at. And, most amazing of all, we started a foundation in her memory to help other families that have been affected by the same type of cancer, to start a scholarship fund and to help research efforts to try to prevent anyone from ever feeling that emptiness of losing someone they love to cancer.

But last week, we received the best news of all that we were given an amazing donation of $75,000!!!! My family and I are huge Dallas Mavericks fans, and we keep up with them regularly. We heard that their own, Mark Cuban, had been fined by the NBA for some not-so-nice comments he made about the refs after a game. We also heard that he always matched his fines (he gets fined a lot because he doesn't like to keep his opinion to himself and the NBA doesn't always agree with what he says) with a donation to charity. My mom thought why not e-mail him about our foundation and ask him to consider donating to us? Later that night, I got a text message with this in it. 

It was official; Mark Cuban was donating $75,000 to us!!!! Words can not describe the feeling I had when I found out. Later, a friend of Anna's posted on facebook "Good news definitely worked its way into the foundation's plans. 1million4anna is gonna do some incredible things." I couldn't have said it better myself. It is more clear than ever, now, that good news is working its way to our plans. I have always believed that God had a reason for taking Anna from this Earth. I knew that her purpose was to touch lives and it is clear that she is continuing to do that from heaven, maybe even more so. Which is why God needed her up there, so she can help orchestrate all the amazing things that are happening. It doesn't make it not hurt, but like I said last week, it sure does it make it easier. 

Another one of her best friends posted on Facebook today (they seem to be good with their words or maybe I'm just lacking my own material) "Eight months ago we started counting Wednesdays. Then the weeks turned to months, and we started counting those instead. Today's the first Wednesday the 8th since June, and I can honestly say that I love you and miss you just as much today as I did those first couple of weeks, if not more."This pretty much sums up my feelings today, on the 8 month anniversary of her death. It still hurts. It still sucks. I still wake up every day wishing I could text or call her. I still miss her beautiful smile and her contagious laugh. I would give anything just to hear her say "I love you, Iss" one more time. But I am so proud of what is happening in her honor and I know she is too. I know she's up there making it all happen so we can help other people. I know this is exactly what she would want her legacy to be, and I am honored to be a part of it, no matter how small or big. 

I am linking up with Shell at Things I Can't Say for Pour Your Heart Out

Float on, beautiful Angel <3

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PYHO: Carrying on Anna's Legacy

Nothing can ever take away the pain of losing someone you love. That is obvious. Nothing can take away the pain of missing Anna and wishing she were still here. I used to wonder how in the world I would ever survive without her. Some days I still don't know the answer to that, but what makes it easier is knowing that she would be proud of what is being accomplished in her honor and knowing that I am a part of that.

Shortly after she passed away, my parents and I decided we needed to do something in her memory. We wanted to carry on the amazing legacy she left and give all the people supporting her something to get behind. After planning and brainstorming and some tears, the idea for the 1 Million 4 Anna Foundation was born. Since then, we* have done more planning and taken lots of steps to get the foundation up and running. We put together a board of directors, held meetings to do more planning, even scheduled our first fundraising event.

A couple weeks ago (it took me a long time to write this post... I'm a little busy these days) the day came that we have been waiting for for months now; we recieved our official notice from the IRS that we are an official 501(c)(3) organization! We can now officially say the 1 Million 4 Anna Foundation is a real, live, non-profit organization in Anna's memory.

Official logo! Website coming soon!

When we got the news, my mom updated Anna's Caring Bridge and I think she explained what the foundation will do perfectly, so I am sharing her words:

"Beginning TODAY — here’s our mission – - we plan to wrap our arms around Ewing’s families.  We will support them and pray for them.  If the parents have a need or the child has a special wish, we will be there to help.  Tomorrow, when that Ewing’s warrior has completed their battle and is ready for the future – we will be there when that future includes college – with scholarship opportunities.  And every day – we will be aware and learn about Ewing’s research being conducted – and our foundation will support promising research, with the guidance of our medical advisory team."

Almost a month ago, shortly before I came back to school, I had the opportunity to meet and spend the day with 3 amazing Ewing's Sarcoma warriors. It happened to be the 7 month anniversary of Anna going to heaven, and I can't think of a better way to have spent it. Meeting these girls and talking to them and hearing their experiences fighting the same cancer as Anna made me even more grateful to have the opportunity to help other warriors like Anna. I know Anna would be proud and that she would do the same thing. In fact, one of the girls shared that she and Anna had talked on Facebook when she was first diagnosed and Anna helped her with what to expect and everything. She was always willing to help others. 

It was clear that Anna's legacy was to change lives. She changed so many peoples lives without even having ever met them or having a conversation with them. So many people are better for knowing her, including me. She changed my life and still continues to. I can't think of a better way to carry on her legacy than working with this foundation. It brings so much comfort and joy to know that Anna would be proud of what is happening in her memory and that I am a part of it. It doesn't make me not miss her, but it definitely eases the pain. 

I am linking up at Things I Can't Say for Pour Your Heart Out.

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

It's that time of the year, the time that has been described as "the most wonderful time of the year" and the "happiest season of all". Normally, I would be in agreement with both of those phrases. This year? I am struggling to get into the Christmas spirit. 

I have known since losing Anna that this would be the hardest holiday. That we could get through Thanksgiving. We could get through the anniversaries of her death (although those are pretty hard too). But I knew Christmas would be hard. Christmas was the one time a year that we had so many traditions the 4 of us as a family. And a lot of these traditions involved things Anna and I did together. I couldn't imagine doing this holiday without her. And yet... here we are. Celebrating Christmas without her. 

I wish so badly that we spent the night together Christmas Eve night, like we do every year. That we would wake up in the morning and see what Santa left us. That we would be together. 

It doesn't help that when I think of last Christmas, which turned out to be our last Christmas together, I am filled with regret. For whatever reason, I was crabby and grumpy when we were decorating our Christmas tree together. I didn't take the time to be thankful for these memories or to appreciate the fact that we were all together. On Christmas Eve, Anna and I always spent the night together in my room. We didn't have slumber parties very often, so this was one of my favorite traditions. Last year, we got in a fight... over what to watch on TV. If you spent much time with the two of us, this wasn't surprising at all. Not only did we fight a lot, but we also fought over the TV a lot; it was just something that was hard for us to agree on for whatever reason. I don't remember the details, but she got frustrated and went to bed... in her room. And I was too stubborn to say I'm sorry so she would come sleep in mine like usual. 

What I would give to have a do-over on that night... if she would come back, I would let her watch whatever she wanted on TV. I hate myself for fighting over such a petty, stupid thing. Do I think that she spent every night after that thinking "God my sister is such a bitch" or "she ruined christmas"? No, not at all. Anna and I fought, but we were also really good at getting over it and moving on quickly. That one fight (or any of our fights) didn't define our relationship. I know that. But it hurts to think that was my last chance to carry on these traditions with her and I ruined it. 

Last Christmas, we just found out that Anna had relapsed and that she would need chemo again. The future was so unknown, but we didn't stop hoping. However, it wasn't far from my mind that Anna was sick. I remember laying in bed that night, already regretting our fight, and thinking "this could be our last Christmas together...". But just as quickly as the thought entered my mind, I made it go away. "That's not going to happen," I reassured myself, trying to make the feeling of panic go away. "She's going to be fine." How badly I wish that were true... 

I miss her. I miss our traditions. I miss the way Christmas used to be. But I know that Anna wouldn't want us to spend our holiday being sad. She never wanted anyone to be sad. And as hard as it was, I did it. I made it through the holiday that I didn't want to happen. 

Did I wake up on Christmas morning and think about what I would be doing if Anna were still here? Yes. Did I wish that we were sitting at the top of our stairs together, waiting to be given the "ok" to see what Santa left us? Yes. But, I did it. I didn't spend the whole day feeling sad. I didn't dwell on what was or what could've been had things turned out differently (well, not much anyway). Instead, I counted my blessings. I was thankful to be spending the day with my family, both immediate and extended and our friends who are like family. 

Although I would have liked to learn these lessons an easier way, I have learned so much from losing Anna. I truly appreciate all the relationships I have in my life and I do my best not to take moments for granted. I took last Christmas for granted, and now I regret it. Was I in a great mood the whole time this Christmas? No! Did I have my moments where I was less than in the Christmas spirit? Absolutely. But would I have appreciated all these moments before? I don't know. 

I found this poem on another blog awhile ago, and saved it for this specific holiday. There are a lot of versions of this poem and a lot of similar poems out there, but this one gave me a lot of comfort because I feel like it is exactly what Anna would say if she could talk to us.

My First Christmas in Heaven

I see the countless Christmas trees
around the world below
With tiny lights like Heaven's stairs,
reflecting in the snow.

The sight is so spectacular,
please wipe away the tear,
For I am spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs
that people hold so dear,
But the sounds of music can't compare
with the Christmas choir up here.

I have no words to tell you,
the joy their voices bring,
For it is beyond description,
to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me,
I see the pain inside your heart.
But I am not so far away,
We really aren't apart.

So be happy for me, dear ones,
You know I hold you dear.
And be glad I'm spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.

I sent you each a special gift,
from my heavenly home above,
I sent you each a memory
of my undying love.

After all, love is a gift
more precious than pure gold.
It was always most important
in the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other,
as my Father said to do.
For I can't count the blessings or love
He has for each of you.

So have a Merry Christmas and
wipe away that tear.
Remember, I am spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.

I know that Anna is up in heaven smiling because she is pain free, she's experiencing so many awesome things and because she's proud of us for not only being strong but continuing to live out her legacy. 
Anna and I at Christmas Eve dinner last year in our matching pajamas :)

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Thrift Store Pen Pals!

It's been awhile since my blog was lighthearted and funny. Once upon a time, I used to be funny on my blog,  you know, before life got so serious. It's not that life isn't serious anymore and you better believe I will still be blogging about Anna, but for now, I thought we could use a change of pace around here. That is why I knew I had to sign up for Thrift Store Pen Pals. This is the perfect opportunity to do something completely different on my blog!

What is thrift store pen pals you ask? Well, Woody at Woodn't Ya Know It started posting about random, crazy items he would find while thrift store shopping. These posts were always hilarious and intriguing to say the least and it was the kind of post I wished I could write. Luckily, he came up with the brilliant idea of sharing this ingenious idea with us, his blog readers. So, he sends you an item in the mail and you blog about it. Easy enough, right?

So.. lets talk about what I got! After reading the other Thrift Store Pen Pal posts, I was really excited to see what I got. I was surprised when I got a box and not an envelope or something smaller. I looked at the return address and knew that my pen pal item had arrived! I tried to use context clues to guess what it was; I shook the box a little to see what it sounded like. It was a little heavy, but not too heavy. What could it be?
I opened up to find....

That, my friends, is what they call a Doll Baby (or as it says on the box DOLL BABY... although I think the capital letters make it a lot more creepy). Personally, I think I would have named it something a little different like... creepy doll missing her body or creepy doll head, I don't know but Doll Baby just sounds so affectionate and cute... everything this thing is not. Let's take a closer look, shall we? Here is Doll Baby removed from her home box.
Immediately, I looked for some sort of warning on the box... I thought maybe it would say "caution! Do not let your children play with this for they will be seriously creeped out for the rest of eternity," or maybe "Beware! This is not a toy! It is simply meant to f**k with peoples minds." Strangely, Turns out I didn't find any kind of warning. What I did find, though, is some interesting information about the origin of "Doll Baby".
In case you can't read it, this is basically Doll Baby's origins. It says she was created by someone named Martha Nelson Thomas. Remind me to be on the look out for people with that name because, seriously, who comes up with something like this? Anyway, the history basically says that Martha thinks you should "cuddle, love and play with" dolls. Novel concept, Martha! Except wait... who wants to cuddle with a body-less doll!? Not me. Anyway, after reading the history I came to the conclusion that Doll Baby does in fact have a body... you just have to buy it separately and sew it together... I think. Now there are a few problems with this philosophy: First of all, you have to know how to sew. If you don't.. well I guess you don't get a body to go with your doll head. And second of all, how many parents do you think forget to buy the body? They are in a hurry and they grab the Doll Baby box not thinking anything of it and then they get home and have to face the question of "But, mom, why doesn't my doll have a body?" How do you explain that!?
Next, I discovered a check list on one side of the box. It is because of this checklist that I discovered this box contains much more than a creepy doll head Doll Baby! Check it out:
Not only does this box contain the doll baby doll head but also a birth announcement (really, for a head?), but also a certificate of authenticity, a name tag, care instructions, the Doll Baby story, and an instruction book with patterns and shoes (shoes... for a body-less doll?) The main thing that stuck out to me out of all this stuff was the Care instructions. Why? I don't know, but my instincts told me that this would be interesting, and I was right. Read carefully the care instructions for your doll baby:
The last 2 sentences are my favorite... "When you are ready to dress your baby again, you might want to sprinkle a little baby powder on its bottom... that's what makes them smell right!" Wait... I realize that you just washed a cloth doll and maybe that's why it wouldn't "smell right" but really? Baby powder? I hope they are kidding. The final sentence of these care instructions is by far the best: "By the way, Doll Babies are allergic to dog bites and sauerkraut." Hold up... what!!!? I don't even know what to say about this statement. I don't know if this is Martha's attempt at humor or what. Dog bites I guess I can understand... dolls that are neglected can likely be subject to a sad life of being a dog toy. But sauerkraut? First of all, who even eats sauerkraut? I'm guessing no one who plays with baby dolls (or baby doll heads, whatever) eats sauerkraut. Maybe I'm wrong, and Martha knows something I don't. Stranger things have happened...
Oh and just in case you were wondering, this is not the only version of Doll Baby. So, if you decide you want a Doll Baby for yourself (they're available on Ebay, I googled it), there are lots of options for you to chose from. See for yourself: 
Lets just say I appreciate the Doll Baby I got a little more after seeing the other more creepy variations. 
Now the question remains... what should I do with my Doll Baby now that she has been blogged about? I'm thinking I may have to take her to class with me one day and blog about people's reactions. Or, you know, she might make a really great prank to pull in the sorority house... Thoughts!? What would you do with your Doll Baby?!
Once again, I'd like to thank Woody for allowing me to participate in this fantastic blog series. Make sure you check out all the other Thrift Store Pen Pals too! 

*Disclaimer: All pictures were taken on my iPhone, so I apologize for the crappy photo quality. I probably didn't do Doll Baby photography justice... 

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PYHO: Her Legacy Lives On

This weekend was a weekend I’ve been looking forward to since going back to school. At the end of the summer, it was so hard to say goodbye to the people I’d spent my entire summer with, especially knowing we were all going to different places across the country from each other and that it would be months before we’d see each other again. This weekend was the weekend that we would finally all be reunited. And that was only part of the reason why this would be a special weekend. There were so many amazing things happening this weekend it was hard to know what to look forward to the most.

As luck would have it (actually I have no doubt that it had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with this weekend being meant to be), I didn’t have classes Friday so I was able to fly home Thursday night and begin preparing for the weekend ahead.

The first event was Friday night at my high school homecoming game. Last year, Anna was crowned Homecoming Queen for our high school. Tradition serves that last years queen crowns the new queen every year. This year, our high school asked me if I would do the honor of crowning the queen in Anna’s memory. To say I was honored would be an understatement. I had hoped, knowing this tradition, that they would at least honor Anna in some way but I had never anticipated being asked to be involved. Of course, every part of me wished that I was there watching her do it herself, but it meant a lot to me that they asked me to do it in her memory. I know Anna was proud. The girl that won told me she really felt Anna's presence through me, and that meant so much to me that I can help carry on Anna's spirit. 

By Friday night 4 of Anna’s friends were in town and amazing reunions were had. I really didn't realize how much I missed them until I realized how happy I was being back with them. These people are my favorite people, but that is a whole other blog post in itself. The best part was it felt like we had never left each other. It felt so normal and so right to be back at my house hanging out like we did all summer.

Saturday was an early day but for an awesome reason. Children’s Hospital, where Anna was treated, holds a Red Balloon Race every year. One of Anna’s classmates started “Team Float On” in Anna’s honor, so we all went to support the team. It was really amazing to see all the people who came out to honor Anna. 
Our team tent was definitely the best looking one out there!
Me and the friends of Anna's who had arrived so far.

By Saturday night, everyone was finally back together! My cousin Becca came in for the weekend and the rest of Anna’s friends had arrived.

The entire weekend just being together with so many of my favorite people was obviously fantastic, but Sunday was possibly the best day ever. Anna’s favorite band was Manchester Orchestra. On the last good night of her life, after high school graduation, she went to see them in concert, got brought up on stage and serenaded by the lead singer. The look on her face when she got home that night was one of pure joy; she could not stop gushing about how nice they were, how amazing everything was, and how they invited her to Lollapalooza. She even joked that she and Andy were getting married (never mind that he's already married!). She thought the world of the band, and the feeling was mutual. They were so touched by meeting Anna they came out to play a few songs privately for her friends and family after her memorial service this summer. Since then, we have kept in touch with them and established a really great relationship with them.

This weekend, they were playing in Dallas, so of course we got tickets. However, not only did we get tickets to go to the show, but we invited the whole band to our house to hang out for awhile. There are no words to describe how awesome this was. Not only were we partying with rock stars, but the coolest, nicest, most down to earth rock stars you will ever meet in your life. They were genuinely so grateful to us for having them over, and they really made an effort to get to know all of us. One moment that really stuck out to me was when a few of Anna’s friends and I were talking to their drummer, Tim, and he was recalling meeting Anna and how much it changed him. He talked about how she has completely changed all of their lives and the direction their band wants to take. “I have a picture of her up on the fridge,” he told us, “and I look at it everyday and think about her.” Amazing proof of what an impact Anna had on so many people.  As if that wasn’t enough, he also went around and asked each of us to share how we knew Anna. He genuinely wanted to know how each one of us had been a part of Anna’s life. Simply unbelievable and truly amazing is the only way I can think to sum it up.

The group with the band
Except it gets better. After spending the day getting to know this awesome band, we went to see them play that night. I will admit that up until about a week ago, I was only a Manchester Orchestra fan in theory. I knew a few songs, but most of those were the songs Andy played after Anna’s memorial. But thanks to a friend (shout out, Zach), I sought out more of their music and researched what they’d been playing on tour lately. It would have been an amazing concert regardless if I had ever heard any of the songs before, but after listening to the Manchester Orchestra playlist I created every day for the last week or so, I was easily singing along to almost every song. Pretty impressive, I’d say, for someone who used to tell Anna to listen to “good music” when she’d play bands like Manchester Orchestra. I have no doubt that she was so proud of me during that concert. It may seem like a small thing to say she has changed me because I enjoy her type of music now, but it is just one more way in which she has influenced me and everyone else who knew her.

To say the concert was amazing would be an understatement. Hands down the best concert I’ve ever been to is more like it. What is even more amazing, though is that they invited us to come hangout with them backstage after the show. As we were leaving, I had a conversation with two of the band members that I will never forget. "I don't think you know how much you mean to Anna's friends and family," one of her friends told them. I will never forget their response. "If anything," they told us, "It is the other way around. You all mean so much to us and Anna truly changed our lives and we are forever grateful." Simply amazing how much she changed their lives after only meeting them once. 
2 of Anna's best friends, our cousin and I with the most amazing band ever.

It was impossible to go through this weekend and especially Sunday night with the band without thinking about Anna and how she is the reason for all of this. It truly makes me believe in the phrase I once hated; "everything happens for a reason". There was a reason Anna was healthy enough to make it to that concert that night, even though her health declined rapidly after that. There was a reason that she met the band. I've always said her purpose in life was to change lives. It was clearer than ever this weekend to see how she did that. Not only did she change her friends and family, but millions of other people including this amazing band who will continue to change people because of her. There is nothing that can replace her or take away the pain of losing her, but it sure does it make you think twice about being sad about it. I am so thankful that my eyes have been opened to see her purpose and how even almost 6 months after she passed away, her legacy of changing lives carries on.

I'm linking up with Pour Your Heart Out at Things I Can't Say.

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