"When you are little, death never really crosses your mind. Swimming in the pool, drinking lemonade and eating popsicles when you are 6 aren’t exactly the moments in life when one explores deeper into the meaning of life and the possibility of death. It especially never plagued me. My childhood was relatively normal. I was never hit with any sorrow or strife. I had my friends and I had my family. Nobody was ill, nobody was suffering. My only worries were where I had left my Barbies or if it would be warm enough for me to go swimming (in Texas though, this problem rarely was an issue).
I feel that for Andy and Nikki Philips, this probably was their only issue at the time as well. Living just a few minutes away from each other, seemingly every summer day consisted of playing with them. My memories of our little play dates are limited and hazy, but whenever I think about them, although I can not recount exactly what we did, I still feel love and warmth in my heart. As we grew older, we grew away from each other as well. We were still close, and whenever I saw them I enjoyed every moment of it. However due to house relocations and the increasing amount of school work one tends to find as they graduate elementary school, those moments slowly decreased.
We heard that Andy had Osteosarcoma in November of 2007. Andy’s primary tumor was found in his upper left humerus and he had reverse total shoulder surgery on January 29th 2008. He had aggressive chemotherapy in February 2008, continuing for quite a number of months. Intense radiation in September 2008 alleviated much pain. However two months later his journey ended at home in the loving care of his family. When I heard of his passing, my child-like naivety was shattered. What do you mean he has died? No, that’s impossible, he’s only a kid! Death was always just a second thought for me. I knew it existed, I knew it would happen, but never to someone who was my age. We had visited him during my spring break of 2008 and he seemed in high spirits. He was talkative, laughing, smiling—acting like a kid. It reminded me of how when we were kids, Andy, Nikki and I would all play and laugh and giggle. I remembered how happy he was then. Nothing made us grieve or worry. Life was simple and we enjoyed living it.
Having someone so young taken from us made me realize how precious life truly is, how delicate it is and how easily it can be taken from us. I think of it as a gift now, as a wonderful little present wrapped in a beautiful pink bow. So when my birthday approached in February, I thought of what I truly wanted and I realized all I wanted was to enjoy and celebrate life. I wanted to celebrate those many popsicles I had eaten and those hours I had swum with Andy and Nikki. I wanted to just enjoy living life again, simple and fun. I wanted my guests to have fun and, even it was for just a few hours, be able to act like kids again. And what’s more fun than rollerblading? Turning 17, I figured the ABBA song "Dancing Queen" would be fitting, since in the song she is turning 17.