[I wrote this post in 2005, but it seemed appropriate to bring back today.]
I remember the day just like it was yesterday. Or at least the second half of the day. It was Spirit Week. The day before was Pajama Day, just like every Monday of Spirit Week. That day was School Spirit day.
I left Math a little bit early that day for my monthly chiro appointment. I came back and parked the car on the front side of WAPA. Walked in and it was really quite. Lesley wasn’t at the front desk. Ballet music was coming quietly from Studio 3. Zach was in Studio 1 tapping. I stopped at the door for a bit and watched him. He asked me what part of the combination from TinTypes was. I showed him then headed back to the dressing room. I opened the door and heard Logan. Confused me some, but didn’t phase me much. Then I walked down the hallway and heard people crying. And I knew exactly what had happened. But I couldn’t ask that.
”Go talk to Karyn. You need to go talk to Karyn.”
So I headed back to the front. All the way hoping it wasn’t what I had feared. I knocked on the door.
“Karyn? Lindsay said I needed to come talk to you.”
I noticed that Karyn, Lesley, and Julie were all in the teacher office, talking.
“Sit down. What the girls didn’t want to tell you. Early this morning Kiana died.”
”No. How is Kelly and Ty? And the girls?”
”They were there when it happened. She had grown really weak last night and they knew it would be soon.”
I dont remember the rest of the conversation. Next thing I remember is walking down the hallway and passing Jess.
“Did you talk to Karyn?”
”You seem to be holding together really well.”
That hurt me. Such a simple observation, but it kind of hurt. I thought she was implying that I didn’t care. I made it to the main part of the dressing room.
And then I started sobbing. We all were.
“She wasn”t supposed to die yet. I knew she was getting worse, but she was supposed to have two more weeks.”
“Why did everyone know except me?!?!?!” Deborah was upset. I guess she hadn’t been told that she had been getting worse. Although how she could miss that, I dont know.
We all cried until rehearsal. I don’t remember rehearsal. I remember still being teary eyed. I think most of us were. After rehearsal a bunch of us (Ashlyn, Lexi, Justine, Megan, and I. Possibly more.) walked to Fred Meyer. It was three days before Halloween, so we bought a bunch of candy and chocolate. We needed it.
Mama let me skip Modern. I’m not sure any of the MTs went to class that evening. I called Jennifer or she called me or something. We talked for a bit. The people still in the Conservatory had to tell everyone else. I sat in the library at the first computer online for a bit. I needed to get away from everything.
It was either that evening or sometime later in the week. Lexi, Becca, and I sat on the couch. And I held them while we cried. We cried for a long time. But I had my girls. We held each other and we grieved.
I remember the evening when Mama told Daddy. They were in the hallway and I came out of my room. I cried for a long time. Death has always been a hard thing for me. I cry when people on tv die. I cry when characters in books die. So when a little girl who made the world light up with her smile died, I cried a lot. I remember saying over and over again ”I don’t understand. Why would God take her?”
It was hard going through the rest of the week. It was Spirit Week, but none of us really felt right about being spirited. Lexi didn’t take the pants she wore that day home until the end of the year. She jammed them in the bottom of her locker and there they lived. There was a music war going on in the dressing room. Lexi often put “I Hope You Dance” in the CD player. Deborah would get rather upset and take it out. I remember her yelling about how that just made everything worse.
Sunday was a particularly hard day for me. Daddy left for Antarctica that morning. I cried a lot then. I came home and took a nap. Woke up and Mama and I left for Cedar Park Christian. As soon as I stepped foot in the building I had tears in my eyes. It was a beautiful memorial. Julie played the piano. Part of Chorale sang. Sarah sang “Reflections” from Mulan. Logan spoke as a friend. Someone from Cedar Park spoke as a teacher. Ty spoke as a parent. That’s what broke my heart the most. To hear a father speak about his daughter who had died. To hear him cry. It broke my heart. I was in tears the entire memorial. My diaphragm went into spasms a lot. It was just too much, having Daddy leave and then the service. It took a lot out of me.
By the end of the service I mostly had myself together. Then I saw Kelly. And I lost it again. I felt bad. There she was, at her daughters memorial service, and she was comforting me! It was supposed to be the other way around! I got myself together again. After about 45 minutes of talking to people, Mama and I left. I cried on my way home.
I remember the first time I saw Kiana. She had on her sequined baseball cap and was carrying around her Barbie car she received from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Katherine was babysitting her. The mask thing from her last treatment was in the kitchen.
I rarely remember seeing Kiana without a smile. She had the biggest smile. Even when she was really sick and in the wheel chair, she was smiling. She was the happiest child I have ever met.
Kiana Jade Willis
October 17, 1995 – October 28, 2003