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.