Archives for posts with tag: daughter

They say that by the time you see a star twinkling in the night sky, it’s already gone. Ava was my shooting star. I was in love with her the moment I saw her at birth. My life forever altered because of her presence, brilliance, challenges, nightmares, passions and ability to love courageously.

Ava was not easy to raise. Quite the contrary. She was the most exasperating, frustrating, angry, recalcitrant, talented, complex person one could even fathom but she was MY gift. Although I am not a patient person by nature, I learned so much about true unconditional love from her presence in my life that even my DNA has been altered.

And, even in her death, she reaches across to me such that my learning continues. Well, it’s either that or give up too. Yep. I’ve considered that too these last months but she still drives me forward but, at times, backwards as well.

Ava moved to Las Vegas at the insistence of her spouse. She dragged her feet trying to avoid the 2000 mile move away from everything she knew and loved but finally acquiesced in the fall of 2008. And, on her moving day as her spouse waited impatiently in the moving truck, revving truck engine to remind her that they needed to get going, she ran back into the now empty apartment where I was for one more hug.

Ava, dressed in her cute summer dress which sweetly flowed gently around her hour glass figure, turned back toward me and said in a scared, quiet voice, “Mom, I’m afraid to move to Vegas.”

My cheerleader reply was, “Really? Why? You’re registered at UNLV! You’re gonna’ finish your opera training there! A whole new life awaits you!”

Sadly and almost like telling a secret, she said, “I’m think I’m going to die there.”

“Oh, baby. NO! You’re going to LIVE there!”

We were both right.

***
Three years later, Ava’s destructive six year marriage was all but over. In his mind, he was already gone. Problem was, it wasn’t in her’s and his increasing insensitivity toward this fragile being diminished her desire to continue. It was the one-two punch of his crassness with her mental and physical exhaustion from completing her degree, slammed dunked by being bullied at her first operatic job. Her spouse’s threats of abandonment pushed her ever closer to an end few imagined this bright, beautiful, playful, intelligent woman would or could ever consider…all save me. I was the one in which she confided everything…the rage, pain, doubt, joy, fear, jubilation, overwhelming sadness, hope and everything in between.

The final act began Wednesday, March 21, 2012, when Ava’s spouse announced he had a girlfriend. It devastated Ava to such a degree that she immediately melted into depression…not moving, bathing, or eating…only texting him to come talk with her personally as their eight years together deserved.

But, as usual, he doled out his doses of insensitivity and negativity sprinkled with unmoving resolve which fed her fears of abandonment, rejection and depression. A poisonous brew, indeed.

That was the catalyst for my twenty-four hour phone marathon with her for the three days leading up to the day that changed my life forever. She called crying her heart out; I sobbed with her. I tried to console her with assurances that I would leave as soon as the workers were through and I had reinforcements to help with her grandmother. I assured her, “Mama’s coming.”

I had every expectation to believe my assurances and unconditional love would continue to work as it had for the last thirty-four and a half years. When we’d come to the brink before, she had aways miraculously been there the next day finding the energy to fight back until reinforcements arrived…me.

However, the fickle finger of fate was in the hands of a perfect storm scenario that night. Instead of packing to drive to Las Vegas, I drove my ninety-one year old mom to the emergency room. Mimi, her big-sister-by-another mother and mentor was also in the emergency room in Montreal.Her best friend of eighteen years, Kimber, was also in the hospital in the last stages of a high-risk pregnancy.  All three of her lifelines were too exhausted to read the final signs.

While I was with Mom in the ER, Ava called. I put her on speaker so they could visit. It was 8:00 P.M. EST, Friday night, March 23, 2012.

I stayed in the Emergency Room with Mom until we got a diagnosis and confirmation that she was going to be admitted. Then, I begged off to get some much needed sleep. I called to check on Ava as I drove home. It was 10:00 P.M. EST.

I finally got to Mom’s took a shower, and called Ava. We talked from 11:00 PM until I fell asleep about fifty minutes later. Her last flat toned comment, “You sleep good, Mom,” rings forever in my head.

Since she left, there’s been a bright, flickering star in the night sky off the corner of my deck. It spoke to me soon after she left; that was that. It was Ava’s star. I talk to it every night. It’s a comforting thing I do, like saying goodnight in the very personal way we did her whole life. See, I miss her so much that my soul aches when I can’t “feel” her. This star connects me somehow to her energy. I can’t explain it and I haven’t lost my mind (yet) but it’s true. Her energy flows back to me during this ritual not unlike the one we have shared from her birth…an umbilical cord which was never severed.

The other night I couldn’t find her star. How could I not find it? It’s the brightest one (of course) which blinks rapidly as if signaling an urgent Morse Code message. I reasoned that it now had taken its autumnal course away from its normal spot. I stood frozen, examining the sky in the hope of finding Ava’s Star. My final logic (after some panic) was that it was probably too early and I needed to come back out when it was darker.

Around eleven, even with a black velvet darkness, I still had trouble finding it. I stared at the western sky trying (in vain) to recognize the surrounding stars. At that moment, a shooting star blazed from where I was looking straight down to the treelined horizon to show me Ava’s star. I can count on three fingers the shooting stars I’ve seen in my life. Now, there are four.

***

Now I know I can find you in the fall sky, at least from my deck. But I also know you’ll be moving again when winter comes. I’ve been afraid I wouldn’t be able to find you in the night sky when I travel to Las Vegas to kick off AvasCorner.com to help other Las Vegas artists and performers find help and a true, accepting sense of community so they know they’re not as alone as you felt in your last minutes. But, now I know I just need to look westward for a shooting star. I love you forever.

Ava's last painting from late February, 2012. Fitting that it has stars and an exhausted blue being. She was all that...a star and an exhausted blue being.

Ava’s last painting from late February, 2012. Fitting that it has stars and an exhausted blue being. She was all that…a star and an exhausted blue being.

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My daughter, AVA, committed suicide two months ago after struggling on so many levels:  fighting chronic severe depression, being bullied at work, exhaustion from college, worry over money  and pushing for nothing short of perfection in every performance, especially her career as an opera singer.

As a very serious, devoted opera geek and full lyric soprano, every note, every syllable, every dialect, every language (German, Italian, French, English, Czech, etc.) had to be studied over and over and over until every molecule of her body vibrated and celebrated the aria, the opera and the passion of the moment. Truly a revolutionary woman not only in her own words but of those who were privileged to hear her perform but who love her and call her friend (present tense intentional).

How do I know all this? I’ve just spent eight weeks listening to every single recording of every single lesson she had over the last several years and being embraced by each of those wonderful performers who love her and call her friend. I feel more at home in Vegas with these wonderful men and women than I do in my own state.

As a public speaker, I know what it’s like to put your all into what you’re doing behind the podium or on the stage but certainly not to the level of performers who put their guts on the stage when they get up there to entertain the public with their jokes, magic, singing, comedy, acting, music, voice… They are exceptional, loving individuals and a clan of their own…a true all-for-one-and-one-for-all group the likes of which I’ve NEVER experienced before. They are not only Ava’s tribe but mine as well.

It is that reason why I am driven, yet again, to not just step outside my comfort zone but leap into mid-air off a bazillion foot cliff to start AVA’S CORNER.ORG with an associated Hotline, initially in Vegas, to be that source for these extremely sensitive, loving people who may feel the need to search for assistance regarding a concern or want a caring person on the other end of the Hotline to listen to whatever it is they need to say with understanding, acceptance and assistance.

Ava’s Corner will trump every negative site my daughter searched that fateful night. It will be the FIRST place a person goes when searching all topics related to “suicide”. It’s my belief we should always dream in terms of a perfect world and work backwards so all you website people are cringing over the task, I only know that none of my previous experience as a commercial real estate title insurance underwriting, real estate law or consulting work ever prepared me for this and I’m just gonna’ jump in with my whole being because there is a need! Tell me what you CAN do…not what you can’t do!

We’re creating an album to be called “all things AVA”. We (Ava and all who has  written a song, a poem or a melody to go with Ava’s lyrics or anything related) are collaborating our love and our efforts to raise money for our efforts to assist with mental health resources and to help prevent as many suicides as possible in the performance industry with the power of positive influence. Every performer will receive full credit for their work including a Bio with photo of each artistic contributor of this beautiful collaborative effort will help fund AVA’s Corner & Hotline.

So far, we are hoping to have AVA singing art songs and arias “Trials and Tribulations of Love”, along with Jenni Kearns orchestrating melodies to Ava’s lyrics, performances by Mirjana Milovanovic, Marisa Johnson, Carmen A. Woodruff, Susanne Knauf’s melody, Beauregard Higgins performing his original song he wrote for Ava, Vital Germaine’s poem with his painting of Ava on the cover, Scott Gordon’s poem, Charly Urso performing his original song, Mirjana performing her original song and anyone else who has an original piece written for Ava. You just need let me know so we can review it.

I want this to be a collaborative effort of all of us to share and enjoy for a long time but also to give credit to some beautiful and talented people who love Ava dearly and will always feel that way. All proceeds will go to the Trust (or non-profit organization…haven’t decided which was is best yet) which I will form when I’m back in Georgia that will fund Ava’s Corner & Hotline.

I have plenty of artists (of all persuasions) but I don’t have a person to assist in creating the website. If you need money to do this and you’re the right person, contact me and I’ll see what we can do to come up with $$. Without the website (the right one, that is) this will never leave the ground. The web creator must “get” what we’re doing and feel passionate about its creation. As the focus will naturally be Vegas, I would love to have a Vegas creator who understands performers.

We’re rapidly building our team! If you feel the callin’ to join us, please reply to this message. Even if you can’t join us but have ideas, bring ’em on! If you can’t do either, support our efforts with love and appreciation for all those performers you’ve enjoyed.

Although I’ve been immersed dealing with this unimaginable loss and with giving all her possessions away to friends, family and loved ones from Vegas to Montreal to Florida, I have one last task. Ava and I were to go camping in the redwood forest where God lives in northern California. It’s a bitter-sweet expectation. I’d told her about this place for over 15 years and, this year, was the year. I cry each time I think about not having her with me on this next Great Adventure and I doubt if I’ll ever think about it without a tear no matter how many years pass. But, rest assured, I’ll be working diligently on this project as well as the big picture of a greater good.

Ava’s last head shot taken in Austria summer, 2011.

I also tear up at how amazing each of her friends embraced me as their own family as they did Ava…how hugging, loving and accepting of us both. And, as each of you pick up the pieces of the lives you had before all this happened, know that I know you haven’t forgotten. It’s just a necessity of living. I’ll be back soon!