Thank you for being here today to remember Ana and celebrate her with us. Your support throughout Ana’s long illness has been our lifeline. It’s comforting to be here with all of you and share our mutual love for Ana.
Writing Ana’s eulogy is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. I want to say something that makes my pain – and yours – easier to bear, but this is an impossible task.
Instead, I’ll start by sharing a memory. Ana started walking at ten months old. After that she rarely stood still. When she was about 2, we came home after being out all day. She’d fallen asleep in the car, so I carried her upstairs to her room. She started crying halfway up the stairs and by the time I got to her room, she was hysterical. Baffled, I carried her downstairs and put her down. She stopped crying, walked back up to her room, and calmly waited for me to put her to bed. All she wanted was to walk up those steps by it herself.
So, you see, Ana’s fierce determination, stubbornness, and independence were as much a part of her as her blue eyes and beautiful voice. Her indominable strength carried her through the length of her illness, right up to the hardest part, until the final moment when her spirit left her body and she moved on to the next place on her journey, leaving us behind.
Yet, Ana was a worrier and, in her unique way, a nurturer. I think she’s still worried about us. I suspect she’s trying to let us know she’s happy and at peace. We’ve felt her presence numerous times. While not here with us in body, we know that her spirit is not far away. As such, I want to address Ana directly, because I firmly believe she’s listening from a place of warm sandy beaches, gentle ocean waves, hummingbirds, and tons of flowers for pressing.
Thank you for the privilege of being your mother. I am so proud of you. Though you knew your life would be short, you lived it fully and well. You never let fear, pain, and uncertainty stop you from experiencing everything you possibly could. Your curiosity about your world and fierce resolve to find your place within it were inspiring.
When I think about all of the things that define you and highlight your life, the chief among them isn’t music, although of course that was extremely important to you. You were also funny, sarcastic, fiercely creative, an incredible writer and thoughtful reader, and a precocious student. Your talent was astonishing. Your ability to sing was evident as early as three years old. Even as a toddler you were acutely aware of all the music around you, good and bad. You used to put your hand over my mouth and tell me not to sing (and, rightly so). You shared this ear for music with dad and Emily in a way that I sometimes envied, but mostly marveled at. When dad handed you your blue guitar, I remember thinking it was such a foreign thing, how could you possibly learn to play anything on it? You shook your head at me and confronted the challenge directly, learning to play with confidence.
You were a friend and companion to Emily throughout her life, a dedicated mentor who grew more fully into your role as big sister with each passing year. Our family vacations strengthened your bond, allowing you and Emily to connect away from the distraction of our day to day lives. We traveled to the Bahamas, LA, the shores of New Jersey, and London all because of your wishes. Each trip brought you closer to Emily and her to you. I loved seeing you both together, leaning on each other, even when I was the butt of your jokes. You will always belong to each other, in that special way sisters do. After you died, Emily asked me if she was an only child now. To that I replied, “No, you’re always a sister.” The words didn’t seem right or adequate or particularly comforting. But what I was trying to say is that even though you’re gone, Emily will continue to carry a part of you with her as she makes her way through life. You’ll be looking over her shoulder, as you always did, making sure she’s okay.
I’ll always be grateful for your first best friend, Lauryn, who you were lucky enough to have by your side from the age of seven until she moved away from the house next door five years later. The laughter that filled our house on weekends and summer days rings clearly in my memory today, as it will forever. Thank you, Lauryn, for bringing such joy to Ana and our household.
Ana, you were absolutely authentic in your friendships and relationships. This didn’t make things easy for you. It took most of your life to find the two people who became your dearest friends—Marissa and Evi—the ones who truly understood you, who accepted you for who you were, and gave you the encouragement you needed to like yourself. In many ways, you belong to Evi and Marissa more than you belong to me or dad. Finding them and keeping them were your priorities. My heart hurts for all three of you, for the rites of passage you won’t ever share, for your quiet phone, and the texts you’ll never send again. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I’d lost my best friend at 15. I believe that you’re watching them closely. Please, show them you’re near, let them know you’re okay, and, above all, keep them safe.
You were loved by your cousins, Chloe and Layla, Nicole, Joseph, and Michelle and, likewise, were a treasured niece and granddaughter. We’re going to miss your laughter and generosity during the holidays, in particular. You took special pride in selecting gifts for each person in the family and cherished the small rituals that formed our family traditions. You would’ve made an unstoppable matriarch if you had lived to have your own family. We’ll feel your loss keenly at each family gathering, but I promise that you will always be part of the celebration.
I want to get back to the topic of your strength. You weren’t a kid who made quick, bold decisions. You agonized about the pros and cons of every move you made. You had a quiet kind of bravery driven by your determination to experience as much life as you could in the limited amount of time you had. Though you were scared of stepping into new situations with people you didn’t know, you did it—time and time again—you did it. You wanted to shine, so you learned the hard songs, sang as loud as you could, and stepped into each new challenge with a will of granite. At 15, you’d started expressing yourself with absolute authenticity—to your friends, your family, your peers, and your teachers. That’s not easy for a self-doubting introvert to do. You had so much courage. You were growing into your beautiful voice, you really were. I am so proud of you.
As serious and thoughtful as you were, you were also funny—with a sharp wit and keen sense of humor. I miss your laughter. The world is a quieter, sadder place without it.
You once wrote, “I love the idea of growing up.” These simple words are a true testament to your amazing spirit. You hid the worst pain from all of us, choosing to face it alone. I’m sorry that you suffered. I’m sorry that you had to be so strong. I hope you’re at peace right now, relaxed and happy. You were and always will be one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever known. We love you and we miss you, Ana. Thank you for changing our lives.
Before we plant Ana’s tree, I want to say one final thing from my family to the families I know who have lost their children to this disease. Our children were a gift. They brought so many people together in shared hope, shared happiness, and shared despair. Our children spread love. Their legacy is filled with love. Ana was love. Killian was love. Mac was love. Zachary was love. Benji was love. Maddie was love. Will was love. Louie was love. And, again, Ana was love. Thank you.