On Sunday night I ended up having an intense discussion with a friend about our shared experiences with the loss of a parent. We talked about grief and how it affected everyone differently and about how we had coped with loss following our parents' death. It was refreshing to speak with someone who could relate so closely to my own experience and felt more deeply connected to him as a result.
On Monday morning I was flooded with a wave of grief as I learned of the passing of a friend who had attended theatre school with me. I met Danielle in 2003 when I started at theatre school. I liked her instantly; she was bubbly, honest and grounded. Danielle was a talented & energetic performer who loved music and dance and wasn't afraid to take risks and give everything she had on the stage. Danielle ended up leaving our term for personal reasons at the end of first year, but re-enrolled a semester later.
It was prior to her fifth term show that Danielle was first diagnosed with leukemia. It came as a shock to everyone and her classmates surrounded her with love and light to help her persevere. Filled with positivity, hope, and being the spunky fighter she was, she kicked the leukemia in the ass, regained much of her health and re-enrolled in school as soon as she could to finish her studies. She graduated alongside her new class and was truly an inspiration to everyone.
Then Danielle got sick again.
Never a quitter, Danielle maintained an optimistic attitude and continued to amaze and inspire all of us with her courageous spirit. A bone marrow transplant was going to save Danielle's life and a wave of relief spread across our community when a match was found. We were confident that this was the end of the unnecessary fighting and that beautiful Danielle was going to be able to move forward with her life and career as a dynamic performer.
The last time I saw Danielle was in August at a dear friend's surprise birthday party. She looked so happy and beautiful and was bursting at the seams with love for life. We talked about the classes she was getting back into, the new headshots she was going to take. She was incredibly enthusiastic about the Ashleyx2 cabaret and said she couldn't wait to be there and that she felt inspired by us and all that we were doing. I gave her a big hug when she was leaving and told her how much I was looking forward to seeing her new headshots and having her at the show.
It was soon after I saw her, that Danielle got sick again. She was always updating her facebook with her progress and I noticed over the last couple weeks that those updates had ceased. More messages were showing up on her wall to keep fighting and on Friday I was chatting with a friend about the situation who told me that while she was in a coma she was doing better every day.
On my way to school on Monday morning I received a text message from my best friend to tell me that Danielle had passed away. I was shocked and incredibly sad. It didn’t even make sense to me. Monday was a very sad day, but also really beautiful in the way that our whole school community came together to share love, hugs, and beautiful memories of our gorgeous friend who had touched our lives so deeply.
In my WW meetings this week I’m talking about the importance of celebrating and positivity in one’s weight loss journey and have shared the following quote to end off each meeting: Danielle embodied positivity, light, energy and love with every ounce of her being. She touched so many lives in her short time on earth and I know that it was as a result of her uplifting, courageous and determined spirit. She was one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and we will all carry her positivity and enthusiasm for life with me forever, and I encourage you to do the same. Her approach to life really helps to put things into perspective. I am thankful for the friendship that we had and feel blessed to have known such an incredible woman. “Everywhere I go, every smile I see, I know you are there smiling back at me, dancing in the moonlight, I know you are free cuz I can see your star shining down on me”
~Janet Jackson, Together Again