My heart is shattered into a million pieces.
How could I have let this happen?
I wish I would have loved her better.
I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
Those were the first thoughts and feelings that rushed over me like a wildfire after it happened. I found out about Anne Marie’s passing through a call from Michelle, one of her closest friends and neighbors.
How we all wish we could have said goodbye.
Within minutes, Michelle was at my doorstep where Ben and I had been holding each other in shock.
Anne Marie was one of my best friends for the past four years. As some of you know, we met at a jewelry party hosted by Kiran, where the running joke after that night was that Anne Marie and I had fallen in love talking for two hours in a corner where no one could interrupt us.
It was the truth.
I had found a partner to pursue my dream with, and the rest is history. I even took her with me to get a “brave” tattoo about a month after our first show.
I loved her smile, her passion for mental health and making a difference in the world, and most of all, I loved her heart.
For me, losing Anne Marie was devastating, for all of us. But this doesn’t mean life shouldn’t move on.
Anne Marie and I always agreed on how I was the big-picture-dreamer and she was the behind-the-scenes, voice-of-reason Co-Founder. When she first stepped back from the organization in 2015 to pursue a new job, I didn’t know how I’d be able to move on.
Anne Marie was so humble. She had the kindest heart. She worked hard to provide for her family, taking pride in decorating the home, and she focused on her hobbies of furniture restoration and jewelry making as the boys grew up. I was in awe of the beautiful family she and Steve had created. I met the boys when they were 10, 14, and 16, but we never really connected since they probably thought it “wasn’t cool” to hang out with their mom’s friend. They better be careful though, I may try to recruit them into the family business.
Anne Marie battled depression and anxiety until she couldn’t anymore.
It is my belief that Anne Marie died of a broken heart, but we don’t have the final verdict yet. The fact is, we don’t need it. It doesn’t matter. What matters at this moment is right in front of us. Let’s learn from this story to honor the mission of This Is My Brave: Storytelling Saves Lives.
As some of you know, I’m currently in the hospital. I’m here because in planning Anne Marie’s Celebration of Life, I became manic, even though we had a prevention plan in action. But it’s okay. I know Anne Marie is listening and she’s with us here today. It’s my belief that when a loved one dies, their spirit lives on within us. Whenever we hear a song or remember a particular memory, we’ll smile and know she’s watching over us.
Here in the hospital, I’ve been working on grieving and healing. It’s a slow process, a journey. One of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle, says you need to sit with the pain. Pain is not a hot potato. Rather, it’s a traveling professor who visits each of us at different times in our lives. It’s our job to sit with the pain. This is the reason I got my fourth tattoo: the word “hope,” which stands for Hold On, Pain Ends.
We have art therapy here. The other day, our assignment was to paint ourselves as a tree in this moment in time. This was ironic to me because Anne Marie has a Tree of Life tattoo with the word “brave” under it. My watercolor painting was of a palm tree with a thick brown trunk with bright green leaves and coconuts hanging down under the palm leaves. In my painting, the roots are visible - a horizontal line divides the middle of the paper and on the bottom half you can see the roots. Here in the hospital, I feel safe and cared for, surrounded by people who are all just like me - human.
Some of us are talking to ourselves. Some of us have visible scars on our arms from self-harm or suicide attempts. Some of us were simply too fragile to handle what was going on in the real world, so we were brought here.
The right side of my painting represents the outside world, while the left side represents the hospital or whatever safe place we’re able to build for ourselves. The two worlds are connected by a rainbow because love is the answer right now.
I’m forever grateful to Anne Marie for taking a risk with me back in the fall of 2013. Without Anne Marie, This Is My Brave wouldn’t exist. I’ll be grieving the loss of my friend forever. And I’m privileged to continue the work of This Is My Brave to honor her legacy.
I’ll leave you with this:
"In the midst of life, we are in death." - Episcopalian gravesite saying
Rest in peace, dear friend. I love you. You are deeply missed.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to a You Caring account for the family (https://www.youcaring.com/theamesfamily-913825) setup to help with expenses for the boys (education, etc.) by some of the many fantastic friends and neighbors who loved Anne Marie so much.