Friday, December 26, 2008

How much tragedy can one family take?

Those of you who read my blog are well aware of the horrible tragedy that struck my family a year ago when my little cousin Nicole was hit by a car.  

One week after that, my grandmother passed away.  

And then, almost three weeks ago . . . a year and a day after my gramma passed away, tragedy struck again.  

On December 8th, 2008, Ana -- Nicole's mom and my hero -- was killed in a single vehicle accident when she hit a patch of black ice on her way to work.  

It's been almost three weeks, and it still doesn't feel real to me.  I can still here her voice in my head, clear as day.  I can still imagine her face as if she were standing right next to me.  I still expect to see her when I go into the domestic violence shelter where we both worked.  

When I think about the things we'd normally talk about on Thursdays when I'd stop in her office before I clocked in, I can still imagine her responses and her reactions to the things I'd have to say . . . how when I'd tell her about a guy I was attracted to and flirting with, she'd always ask "Is he a good kisser!?" Or how when I'd vent about how tired I was from working so much while trying to go to school full-time, and still being unable to keep up on bills . . . and she'd ask me if I wanted her to hit my dad up for money! Heh . . . she always made sure I was taken care of. 

And when I'd talk about school . . . about my achievements and my future goals . . . she'd tell me to reach for the stars, and I'd get them.  She'd tell me that I was soaring, and that she was so proud of me.  

I wanted so much to make her proud of me.  And she was.  She never missed an opportunity to make that fact abundantly clear.  Her encouragement was genuine and true, and it was never ending. To have someone whom I've looked up to so much for so many years believe in me as much as she did was an amazing gift that I would never even think about taking for granted. 

I felt I owed so much of my success in life to her, that when I recieved my big scholarship this past fall, it was her and Nicole that I asked to be my guests at the awards dinner.  And during my speech that night, it was during the part in which I was thanking Ana for her years of support, and telling her that I've always wanted to be just like her that I broke down crying.  

The emotions that came along with telling my hero that she was, in fact, my hero, were just overwhelming.  

How did this relationship come to be?  How did she become my hero?  

I met Ana when I was 8.  She was in a relationship with my cousin Mike, and was about to give birth to Nicole.  My home life at that point in time wasn't exactly stellar.  My mother was in a physically abusive relationship, and I was around drugs and alcohol in abundance.  Every other weekend my older brother and I had visitation with my dad.  Dad drove a semi, long-haul, for a company out of St. Louis, and didn't really have an actual home at the time, so on the weekends he had us, we stayed with family.  When I was 8, we started staying down on my cousin Mike's farm.  

I was in heaven.  It instantly became my favorite place on earth, and not just because it was a big farm with lots of animals.  Ana treated me differently than the other adults in my life did.  She made me feel welcome and accepted and never excluded.  She taught me things . . . we'd cook, we'd sew, we'd use tools and build animal hutches for the various creatures that would always make thier way down to the farm that I've always referred to as my oasis.  She taught me those things that I was severely lacking . . . life skills.  

More than anything else, she taught me how a healthy couple should behave.  

I can remember one time, sitting on the couch watching a movie.  I could hear Mike and Ana in the bedroom arguing over something.  I remember feeling so scared I was sick to my stomach.  The more thier voices raised, the stiffer I sat, deathly afraid of what was to come.  After all, everytime that happened at home, it ended with bruises and blood.  

And then, after a while, Ana cracked a joke, and Mike laughed.  Next thing I knew, they were both giggling and being silly.  

Ana taught me that people can disagree and still love each other . . . and not hurt one another. 

Life didn't have to be about jealousy or drugs and alcohol or power and control.  Love didn't mean to obey your spouse or get hit.  

I wasn't lying when I said in my speech that I wanted to be just like her.  And it started then.  Ana worked as an advocate at a domestic violence shelter.  I knew by the time I was 14, that I wanted to do the same thing, except with a psychology degree.  I job shadowed her in high school, and when I turned 18 and was old enough to do so, I took the 80 hour volunteer training course required to work or volunteer at the shelter.  Before I was done with that course, I had a job lined up there.  For the past 7 years, I've had the pleasure of working alongside my hero, helping victims of domestic violence.  

She was my hero when I was 8, and she will be my hero until the day that I die.  

It still hasn't really hit me that she's gone.  I don't know when it will sink in and become a reality.  A big part of me still refuses to admit that I'll never again hear her voice . . . that she'll never again be there to tell me that I can do whatever I want to do in life.  

I love her and I miss her, and there will always be a hole in my life where she belonged.  

I hope you are well, up in heaven, Ana.  I hope you are up there with Lori, watching us . . . watching your daughter walk for the first time since nearly losing her in her accident a year ago . . . watching me do my best to keep making you proud.  


Jess said...

That was beautiful, Corry. *hugs*

ignoramoose said...

What a lovely testament to her life, Corry. She must have been a very, very special person.

Anonymous said...

That was such a wonderful tribute. I found your blog through a link about Nicole, and when I read that Ana was her Mom it made my heart sink that your family had gone through so much heartache.