It’s been only a few days since we said our last farewells to Annie and the sense of loss has not yet fully set in. She was Annie Long and she was 53 when she died on March 9. Staff, who were members of her Choices family, had been by her side from the time she went into the hospital for surgery and through the time she was at hospice.
Some of her Choices family had been by her side for as long as they can remember. One of her three Huntsview housemates, Rose, was one of those, someone who had been with her through the darkest of times for them both – through those haunting and terrible days at that foreboding and haunting place called Orient State Institution where the two of them found something good and lasting and hopeful even there because they found each other. They were sisters not bound by blood but bound by survival, perseverance, strength and joy in each other. They were children together at Orient and became teenagers there. They grew to the fullness of womanhood as members of our Choices family, living challenging, meaningful and full lives where they were afforded the dignity and respect lacking in that cold, dark place they had known as children.
They put the memories from that place behind them as they became two of the first people to come home to Choices In Community Living, becoming some of the first members of our extended family in 1985, the same year Choices was founded. They have been together through all the years that followed, through changes from home to home, with new housemates and new staff, but through it all they have been together. Until now.
Perhaps no one will feel Annie’s loss as much as Rose because of that unique history they shared, but the grieving has only begun as well for those others who were Annie’s family all these years – her other housemates, Cheryl and Gisela – her staff at her Huntsview home, including Leah, Cindy, Cecilia, Asnakech and Toni. They knew her best and miss her most. They knew her for her love of country music and how “I Hope You Dance” touched her deepest spirit each time she heard it. They remember her singing “Jesus Loves Me” at the Choices Talent Show. They know how to describe her best. “She was Annie,” and that seems enough for them to say. “No one was better at being Annie than Annie. She was the best Annie. Once she got to know you and trust you, she would love you forever. That was part of her being Annie. She was our family and her loss is immeasurable.”
It is immeasurable for her large extended family at Choices because more than anything we are family. We do what is necessary to make sure the ‘business’ of providing homes and services is taken care of, that documentation is in place, paperwork is filed, bills are paid, plans are developed and implemented but it is so much more than that. It is family. We know that at the end of day. We know it and feel it most profoundly and most deeply at the end of life. You don’t mourn the end of a business day. You mourn for as long as there are memories when a new day begins and Annie is no longer there.
We honor and thank the giving and generous people of the George C. Martin Funeral Home for being such an important part of helping us celebrate Annie’s life and guiding us so gently through that last farewell.
We also thank generous families and friends who have made donations to our Choices Wish List. While so many of your donations have provided clothing, furniture, recreation and so much more over the years for Annie and others we serve, it is in these final moments when your donations and your caring mean the most. We are so grateful there were Wish List funds available to assist us as we said our final farewells to our Annie.