Monday, March 15, 2010

who could turn the world on with her smile?

Ali was already sick when I met her. In a way, I met her because she was sick. She came into the little yarn shop where I worked and asked to speak to the owner, who, of course, wasn't there. So Ali told us her story. She had brain cancer. She was on disability, so she wasn't allowed to work for pay. But the chemo seemed to be working and she was feeling a little better, and she just got so bored sitting at home all the time. Could she volunteer at the yarn shop? Could she just hang out there? We encouraged the owner to go along with the idea. We thought we were doing something nice for a sick girl. It never entered our minds that Ali would do so much for us.

Ali was so positive, so upbeat, so glad to be alive, I think. She had a beautiful smile and the most wonderful, unexpected laugh. And she laughed all the time. And she talked all the time. That girl could talk! We learned a lot about Ali in the short time that we knew her. We learned that she had been in college at McGill when she became ill. That she had come home to Cleveland to receive the best medical care available to her. We learned about the guy she was dating and the friends she had and the trips she and her mom took together. A trip to the west coast to see her brother and sister-in-law. A trip to Paris - the trip of a lifetime. We celebrated with Ali when she went back to Montreal to receive her degree. We worried over her when a dizzy spell at the shop one day turned into a trip to the hospital, and the discovery of another brain tumor. And when the shop closed unexpectedly last fall, we lost touch with her.

Today Ali died. As I read the announcement on Facebook, and my eyes filled with tears, I realized a song was playing in my head:

Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it's you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it.

I think Ali would have loved that. I think she would have laughed.


jsdknits said...

Ali is a star.

Eostre said...

Anne, this is lovely and sad. Thank you for sharing.

Shaun said...

I was a friend of Ali's back in her high school days, and saw this post on her Facebook page. Thank you SO much for posting it. It brings me great comfort to hear that even in the worst of times, after I'd long since lost contact with her, she still had that radiant smile. Thank you so, so, so much.

anne mancine said...

Janet - I like to think of Ali sparkling and smiling down on us.

Thanks, Carla.

Shaun - It is truly amazing how many lives Ali touched. You're welcome.

Kitty said...


You know, it is good to reflect on life and who and where we are each day. This story is poignant because Ali was young and positive. She tried to make the most of what she had, despite a terrible situation that had an uncertain outcome.

Thanks for posting this. It really makes me stop and think. I truly feel for this stranger.

We will each go someday, and we might not be so brave or prepared. The most we can possibly do is treasure what and who we have in our lives in each present moment.

anne mancine said...

"The most we can possibly do is treasure what and who we have in our lives in each present moment."

Yes, exactly. I think if I can do that, Ali will still be helping me, which I know would make her happy.

At her funeral service yesterday, the rabbi said her greatest regret in dying so young was that she felt she had not completed her mission in life to help all the people she could. That sounds sappy, maybe, but that's really the kind of person she was.

So if each of us who attended that service can carry that message away with us, think of the effect that could have. Think of it radiating out exponentially from Ali. That would be a remarkable legacy.

raimi said...

I was Ali's roommate throughout her time in Montreal, and it was so hard to be away from her when she had to come home. I am so glad she had the yarn shop and you all to keep her smiling and laughing, as I know she was so good at it.
This was beautiful. Thank you.

anne mancine said...

You're welcome. My condolences on the loss of your friend. What a wonderful roommate Ali must have been!