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 done just a couple of weeks before leaving us.