Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean. Tears from the depths of some divine despair Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes, In looking on the happy autumn-fields, And thinking of the days that are no more. –The Princess, Alfred, Lord Tennyson
There is no blueprint for the five stages of grief—Denial > Anger > Bargaining > Depression > Acceptance. There appears to be two kinds of grief when faced with such stunning diagnosis as Anna and her family were dealt. Cancer is diagnosed to both the patient and the family. Those same five stages emerge from the outset of each new treatment. Each family member continues to go in and out, right up to the dawn of awareness. This is actually the end. Upon death, the stages take on a completely different tone and, quite possibly, order. Donna’s initial news was on February 2nd, 2016. Three days later, the Chainsmokers released “Don’t Let Me down.” This became Anna’s anthem and cry for help through all the trips down and back to Stanford. “Don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me...down.” Whether this was in denial or bargaining, that refrain ultimately turned into anger and depression. Acceptance is a process. A Girl and Her Farm, her mom’s brainchild, is thriving. Anna begins each event telling this story, making the point that her mom is “still here with me.” Last Spring, Anna was in front of 50 sorority sisters and their moms. There was not dry eyes anywhere, including Anna’s. Though, because of her mom, when Anna got through this introduction, she placed a huge smile on her face and exclaimed, “Ready for a DIY project?” Her mom would not want it any other way. The legacy lives on.
The house also sits near the barn where her events are held. Her parents’ house sits on the other side of this barn. Then there is a dove. Doves are know as a symbol of peace. They are also known as messengers. Surely the irony is not lost. The messages range from the best of news to the worst. Donna always had a dove, even before she married Luke. When Anna moved into the farm, she thought about getting one but did not know how to go about it. No need, one showed up. She swears it’s not just a dove. The remarkable part is the dove followed them from the farm to the childhood home. Donna remains with Anna in multiple ways. Finally, on February 2nd, 2018, The Weeknd, with Kendrick Lamar, released Pray For Me. “Who’s going to pray for me? Take my pain for me?” Anna adopted a new anthem, one that gave her hope and a fighting spirit. One that brings back the fight, the battle. One causing Anna to cry out for her Mom that no one should self diagnose, or ever ‘wait’ to seek treatment. That is the big part of the pain she lives with and wishes to let go.
It is never easy to think about the days that are no more. Thus, the straight line is still not allowed into play. The onion will continue to shed layer after layer. Anna will shed tear after tear, both idle and desperate. Anna’s vulnerability and fears will still haunt and follow her. There will be birthday parties and holidays, weddings and funerals, graduations, and celebrations, surely more surprising and unannounced moments. She will certainly experience a mother/son dance three times. In the midst of all of this, there will always be: a girl and her mom, a girl and her farm, a husband, dad, sister, and a farm with three boys. There will also remain a barn and a dove. She will undoubtedly still listen to the Chainsmokers and The Weeknd with Kendrick Lamar. Just maybe, a new refrain will make its way into her earbuds. One that clearly defines Anna and her story. It is from Keith Urban’s, Female, and reads like this: “Sister, shoulder, daughter, lover. Heal a broken halo, mother nature, fire suit of armor. Soul survivor, holy water, secret keeper, fortune teller, Virgin Mary, scarlet letter. Technicolor, river wild, baby girl, woman, child. Female.’ Only a single word to add—alive. Therein lies the essence of this hard fought battle. The battle that Anna wins on a daily basis using Samuel Beckett’s persistent words—“I can’t go on. I go on.”
Grief can also be handled with amazingly unforeseen and remarkable things. The first of these came in the form of a surprise from Matt. One year after her mom’s passing, Anna’s childhood home, next door to the beloved Nord Country School, went up for sale. Matt purchased it and moved the family. 35