Ten years ago, I auditioned to play a role I’d performed twice before: Nancy in Oliver. I didn’t get cast (it had been a long shot, age-wise, but hey). The role went to my friend Amy – who was, to be fair, much more suited to it. Not only was Amy 30 years younger than I am, but she actually looked the part of the underfed, abused waif that Dickens’ Nancy probably was.
Why did Amy look so thin?
She hadn’t eaten anything for over three years. She was kept alive thanks to a daily IV solution, administered because she no longer had a stomach. Said stomach had literally exploded a few years prior, due to a major blood clot, right before Amy was supposed to graduate high school and go on to the prestigious college musical theatre program she’d been accepted to.
Instead of prom, Amy had spent months in a coma, at death’s door. She survived, after over 10 surgeries in the first week alone(!). And she went on to a long “detour” of a life changed by medical crisis.
Last week, though, death’s “door” finally opened to Amy. She passed awy, a few days shy of her 34th birthday and just days after her second book was published, with her loving family by her side. I think her body, after countless surgeries and challenges, had finally given up.
In the 16 years between Amy’s near-death and her actual passing last week, she left a legacy that will give gifts to the world forever. We all leave a legacy of some sort, really– the love we give, the work we do – it all adds to the world, and stays behind when our bodies go.
Amy Oestreicher, though, went far beyond the usual legacy – she left us with concrete examples of courage, resilience, humor, art and inspiration that will touch people forever. What she did – what she chose to do – with those 16 years is a gift and inspiration to us all. And it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Bank to Oliver. I saw that show, and Amy absolutely rocked that part. Even though, during intermissions, she had to hook up to the IV to get nutrients. After many surgeries, she also was – finally – able to drink something. Well, sort of drink.