Monday, June 27, 2011

Friends and sisters always be, together forever...

"I would like to sing a song, if you care to sing along.  If it could but stay among, our hearts, forever. Then I'd sing of you and me, in our dear sorority.  Friends and sisters, always be together forever, singing: 'We are many sisters, come and take our hands. We will share the spirit of our clan. We are many sisters, and all our avid fans, members and sister of dear old Alpha Gam.'  All the love she's given me, all the times she's proved to be, all the friend I'll ever need, or care for, or dare for.  Like a rose so sweet and fair, like a blossom growing there, in our hearts without a care, she'll take you and make you: One of our many sisters come and take our hands, we will share the spirit of our clan.  We are many sisters and all our avid fans, members and sisters of dear old Alpha Gam."
The lyrics above are those of a song called "The Margaret Song".  It isn't one you will ever hear on the radio, or see performed at a concert.  But, to a very special group of women, these lyrics are embedded in our hearts and in our minds.  The lyrics were originally written to honor a member of Alpha Gamma Delta who was killed in a car accident.  The song has been passed down from generation to generation of sisters, and is sung at special events, weddings, celebrations, and, most recently, a funeral.  At happy events, the last line is shouted over the sounds of stomping high heeled shoes.  Most recently, the lyrics struggled to leave our mouths over the lumps in our throats and the tears in our eyes.  We gathered as family, joined together under the name of Alpha Gamma Delta, to honor our dear sister who had lost a battle she had been fighting for so long.
I didn't know Amanda growing up.  I didn't know her as a 15 year old when she was diagnosed with Leukemia after a car accident.  The date she was diagnosed with Leukemia was June 13th.  I didn't know her when she first came down with a long and lasting case of Bell's Palsy.  I didn't know her as a cheerleader, or a runner.  I didn't know her as a girl who wanted to make every animal a pet.  I wish I would have known her then.  I didn't get the privilege of meeting Amanda until she came to Pittsburg State University, and went through formal recruitment to join a sorority.  She chose us, and we chose her.  I instantly liked her, we all did, she was quiet and shy.  She was smart, feisty, and kind, a perfect combination.  She probably would have made a fantastic competitive eater (as long as the competitions included greasy french fries), but instead chose to achieve her degree in graphic design.  Amanda cherished memories so much that she kept everything.  Her family referred to her as an 'organized hoarder'.  All of the young women in our sorority loved and cherished Amanda, and felt an incredible need to nurture and protect her.  We were all sisters, some biological, most not, but we were sisters, in every other sense of the word, nonetheless.
Amanda touched the heart of everyone she met.  She loved fully and laughed hard.  She didn't just live... she was alive.  She was a fighter, she had more strength in her tiny little frail body than anyone I have ever met.  People were drawn to her spirit, to her smile, to the kindness that shone through her eyes.  I think there are a lot of people who would have been deflated and defeated after going through such a hard battle, but Amanda stayed positive and strong, only breaking down occasionally to those who were closest to her.  She told me once that it didn't bother her too much that her hair never grew back after the chemotherapy made her lose it, she thought it was fun being able to change hair colors and styles so often with her wigs.  She was amazing.
Amanda became quite ill with what the doctors first thought was severe asthma, but soon they learned that her lungs were covered in polyps.  Her lungs had been destroyed by the chemotherapy treatments she had received.  She became a candidate for a double lung transplant, which she received in January of 2010.  She was finally able to go back home on June 13th, welcomed home with a party in her honor.  She was on oxygen, pulling around a tank that was as big as she was.  She chose to be cautious, wearing a mask even after the doctors gave her permission not to.  By October, her ability to breathe on her own became less and less.  She was suffering from the chronic rejection of her new lungs.  She was admitted into the hospital, where she was put on a ventilator.  Eventually she was placed on a feeding tube, and her ventilator was administered through a tracheotomy.  She lost her ability to speak and eat, only able to mouth words to those who had learned to read her lips.  She remained in the hospital for 8 months, until her passing.
It seems so unfair that her body seemingly failed her at every turn, while so many others can make it through life without so much as a common cold.  But Amanda's story is not just about illness.  To only remember that part of her life would be doing a disservice to her.  Although it is important to know what she went through, so that you can really appreciate her smile, her positive attitude, her love for her friends and family. 
Amanda went home to be with the Lord on June 13th, 2011 (have you noticed this date as a theme in her life?).  When I heard the news I was sick to my stomach, saddened that I hadn't taken the chance to see her one last time, to hug her and to tell her that I loved her.  I wept for her family, for her friends, for everyone who knew her.  I wept loudly for her parents, as no parent should ever have to bury a child.  I know that all who had the honor of knowing her were deeply affected by this loss.  I believe we were all cut to the core with feelings of anger and sadness.
As strange as this may seem, Amanda's passing also brought somewhat of a sense of peace to those who knew her.  Amanda was a believer, and there is no doubt that she is now in the presence of our Lord.  We know, the moment she took her last breath on earth was the very first breath she took in heaven.  And that first breath of sweet heaven's air was the first breath in hundreds of thousands that came with ease; that came without strain, or the use of a ventilator.  We knew, that for the first time in many years, she was running her hands through her own hair, that she was finally in a body that would fail her no longer.  Everyone who knew her, knew, immediately, that she would suffer no more, and that she was at peace.
Many friends and family members came to bid Amanda a final farewell.  At her service, the paul-bearers wore flip-flops (her favorite) and brightly colored t-shirts that said "Team Amanda".  All who came were there to celebrate a wonderful woman, and to mourn a life lost too soon.  At her request, our sisterhood of women encircled her casket at the burial service to sing 'The Margaret Song'.  I am honored and proud to be part of a sisterhood so special and binding, and to have been able to call Amanda my friend and sister.  I know that the members of Alpha Gamma Delta who were lucky enough to become close to her, will feel her absence for a long time to come.
You will always be loved and missed, dear Amanda.... until we meet again.






Below is Amanda's obituary, as posted by Ferry Funeral Home.

Amanda Kathryn Smith
Amanda Kathryn Smith, 27, Nevada, MO, passed away on Monday, June 13, 2011, at Kindred Hospital in Kansas City, MO. Amanda was born on October 30, 1983, in Nevada, MO, to Ernest Leon and Kathryn Elaine Gordon Smith.
Amanda attended Walker Elementary School from Kindergarten through 6th grade. She enjoyed baseball, track and field days and was in many spelling bees. She then attended Nevada School from 7th through 12th grades graduating from Nevada High School in 2002. She participated in cheerleading, choir and track. Amanda obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design in 2006 from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KS. She was part of the sisterhood sorority at Alpha Gamma Delta. Amanda enjoyed spoiling her nephews, reading all the books she could get hold of, and her cats Toby and Midget. Any stray animal that came through, she made a pet out of it. She would even help her dad take care of the little pigs. Amanda enjoyed TV shows such as The Young and the Restless, HGTV, and cooking shows.
Survivors include her parents Leon and Kathy Gordon Smith, Nevada, MO; one sister, Darya Kalleck, Butler, MO; one brother, Eric and Bouaphanh “Boo” Smith, Kansas City, KS; grandparents, Carolyn and Jack Gordon, Nevada, MO, and Grace Smith and her late husband, Thomas Smith, Butler, MO; nephews, Blade and Ty Kalleck, and Evan and “soon to be” Ethan Smith, numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 18, 2011, at Ferry Funeral Home, Nevada, MO, with Pastor Mark Mitchell officiating. Interment will follow in Newton Burial Park, Nevada, MO. Friends may call now and until the hour of service and the family receives friends 6-8:00 p.m. on Friday evening, June 17, 2011, at the funeral home.
Those who wish may contribute in her memory, to Barnes Jewish Hospital Transplant Program, Lymphoma and Leukemia Society, or to the Vernon County People for Pets c/o Ferry Funeral Home, 301 S. Washington, Nevada, MO 64772.

1 comment:

  1. This is an amazing post! You have such a way with words and it's so wonderful that you wrote this ! I didn't know Amanda personally,but I did know of her and I'm sure she would be so thankful to you for those loving and kind words. What a great friend you are :)

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