This afternoon I said good bye to a very special young woman, Alora Deonie Packianayagam. Alora entered my life as a WHALE SONG fan, became one of my biggest supporters, and inspired everyone whose life she touched--including mine. Her memorial service was held at Mill Woods Pentecostal Assembly in Edmonton this afternoon, and the place was packed with people of all ages and races who had come to pay their respects and say farewell to Alora. That says a lot right there.
My memories of Alora are very strong today, and it made me want to dig up an old blog post--the one where I wrote about how I surprised Alora at school...
Friday, October 6, 2006 - Surprising a Fan is So Rewarding!
Ok, I'm back from high school--a Catholic high school to be exact. Not because I'm a student or a geek, but because I got to surprise a fan today. And you should have seen her reaction!
Alora had been emailing me the last month. She told me she enjoyed two of my novels and was so genuinely excited for me with my news (new publisher, TV series, etc). She even went so far as to convince her family and friends to order Divine Intervention and The River from Amazon.com to help persuade my new publisher to take my other two books! lol
Now that's a fan!
So after sneakily getting the name of her school, I plotted my surprise. I contacted the school and arranged a visit this afternoon. I loaded up a bag with goodies for Alora, her teacher and the class. I waited in the classroom, wondering if she'd recognize me. We'd only met once, but she did see my photo on my site. But she didn't really notice me until her teacher announced a guest.
I was watching Alora. When she looked at me, at first she didn't connect things. But I saw the second she realized who I was. It was quite funny! Part of me was nervous--not about visiting or speaking, but that I might embarrass her. But that wasn't the case...and that made my day even more special. A teenage girl was happy I was visiting her! Jeesh, sometimes my own daughter barely talks to me!! :)
I gave Alora some yellow carnations and a card. Then I gave her tickets to be part of the audience at the filming of the TV series episode I'll be in (see: A Total Write-Off in blog), and tickets to the Edmonton Woman's Show, plus some other goodies. And then I had to give her a copy of the only book she hadn't read--Divine Intervention.
The other students received bookmarks and postcards. Two of the postcards were marked, so those student got their pick of one of my books. Then I talked to them about writing, my books, the TV series/competition, my future projects...publishing and more.
All in all, it was a very rewarding day!
A blue binder - $2.99
A black pen - $1.49
A colorful bag $14.99
The look on Alora's face?
I had a blast! Thanks to Denise and Hillaria at Holy Trinity Catholic School for helping me plan this surprise visit, for making me feel so welcome and for buying my novels for your library. Thank you to the students in the grade 11 English class for being interested in my work and asking questions.
But most of all, thank you to Alora for being a fan and wanting to read all my books. I always look forward to your emails! :)Over the past 6 and a half years, I have been blessed to watch Alora grow up into a beautiful young woman. I have followed her life on Facebook and chatter with her occasionally. Alora embraced life with every breath. She encouraged others to live their lives to the fullest. She inspired so many, and that was so apparent today. This 22-year-old girl lived each day as though it were her last--and oh the living she packed into those 22 years.
My thoughts and prayers are with her husband, Benjamin, as he grieves the loss of such a radiant light in his life, and with Alora's parents who have lost their beautiful daughter. But what I saw today in that church tells me her mother and father will never be without family and friends, and they will always have beautiful memories of Alora. Stay strong, and stay together.
So today I say goodbye to that young girl I first met, who inspired me to be a better writer and who showed me true courage and grace. Today I say farewell to the beautiful young woman Alora had become. Bold, spirited, funny, kind, inspiring, full of life--those are words I use to describe her. I am blessed to have known her.
Live each day to the fullest, live each day like it's your last.
Dance until the sun comes up, and sing of wonders vast,
Paint a million memories, and make your smile your gift,
And remember Alora's words, "Only fear a life unlived."