Tomorrow is Anna’s 35th birthday. Hard to imagine. She is locked forever now at 19. Her smile. Her laugh. Her brilliant eyes. The daisies in her hair, plucked from the wildflowers on her way to school. Her warmth. Her depth of spirit. Her passion for dance and theater and the life of the Spirit.
She was represented by an empty chair at her little sister’s wedding almost two years ago, now. As she was represented by an empty chair at the graduation of her class at St. Olaf College. As she will always be represented by the empty chairs at our family tables.
I wonder, sometimes, what path her life might have taken. George was a surrogate grandparent for her in our congregation, and he was always trying to persuade her to become a pastor. She would have been stellar. But she loved dance. She loved theater. She loved people. She loved life.
She had a wondrously tender heart. She was the one who went to sit by the person in the corner alone.
And she had a beautiful voice, unafraid to sing, happy to sing. But eager to let the spotlight shine on others.
She had a sharp and insightful mind. If there was a flaw in your argument she would see it. She wouldn’t hurt you over it. She could ask the question that exposed your flaw so graciously you didn’t always realized your argument had been demolished.
She was kind. The hardest assignment in an acting class was the time she was asked to be mean. No one believed it coming from her. Not that day. I’m sure she would have got there, eventually. She had the determination. But cruelty was foreign territory.
The world is poorer without her. Too many fine young lives were destroyed that day. And too often it seems like there’s a sniper picking off the bright spirits of our youth. Too many fall. And the world is poorer.
It is hard when I think about the hardness of heart in the world around us. The subtle corruption. The self-serving. The slimy attorney who taught people to drink and drive without getting caught. He caught my hand to express his condolences in a moment when I wasn’t looking. I don’t often react by wanting to wash my hands.
In a world of greys was a young girl who, at the age of seven, could match reds from her memory of what was in her mother’s closet. I always tried to take her with me when shopping for her mother. She had favorite colors (black and brown) and favorite, favorite colors, and favorite, favorite, favorite colors. There wasn’t a one she didn’t like. Nor a person she didn’t like.
A fertile creative mind. A wonderful, generous spirit. A beautiful voice and words worth speaking. A profound and abiding faith. A graceful expressive dance of life. Snatched away.
I trust that she is singing still. I trust the heavens ring. I just wish that I could hear.