Legacy: The too-short life of Amy Oestreicher

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’s One-Woman show – highlights are on youtube

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.  

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Unmoored: What To Do if Life Goes Adrift

I’m not a huge interpreter of dreams, but last night’s was a doozy. My home was about to fall into a sinkhole. ( What ?!?!  )

So I had to climb onto the roof, leaving behind all I had worked so hard to create.  Carefully chosen wallpaper, brownies baking in the oven – all abandoned; I climbed up, nearer to the sky (with a friend, identity unknown) as the house drifted into the water (I guess I had scored a waterfront property in this dream, wahoo) – destination entirely unknown. No map. Just safety from disaster, and no choice but to trust that we would land somewhere. Somehow.  And eventually we did land – on an island where my family was among others waiting to share this new experience.

I know where this dream came from. Life is like that now for me – unmoored. Maybe for you too. My business has changed. More people getting into voice-overs and narration – suddenly everyone and their grandmas have created in-home audio and video studios, (and so my cool set-up isn’t the novelty it used to be).and they are lowering price points.

Live speaker gigs with actual people have disappeared for now – or morphed into virtual presentations. Even audiobook narration (my constant staple in 2020) slowed down for awhile – so I ‘ve had more unscheduled time than I had before Covid, and have been feeling (like in the dream) adrift and unmoored. Not sure what to leave behind, not sure what the Universe is trying to tell me.

One year (and counting) into this pandemic, and I can barely remember what it felt like to have a jam-packed day and then gratefully collapse back home, grateful to slow down at last. Can you?

So – we adjust. I’ve jumped (or been forced to jump) many times before, and have always landed on my feet. I bet you have as well.

But in-between the old and the new, there is that time we spend adrift. Boats unmoored, not quite knowing how to navigate.

Still – there is a lesson in everything. I firmly believe that. I have to. I’ve been unmoored before – and, looking back, it always led me to greater things.

So – we adjust. I’ve jumped (or been forced to jump) many times before, and have always landed on my feet. I bet you have as well.

My husband deserted our family when my kids were 3 and 6, leaving me to fully support and raise my son and daughter. This led to a new career as a radio broadcaster, and also a drama teacher. It also inspired me to greater heights as an actor and voice talent.

After 17 years, the radio station decided suddenly to “make a change”. I felt lost (unmoored). This feeling led to time to write my book (Ben Behind His Voices) – and to my speaking career, national and international.

Two years ago, I discovered that my biological father was actually a sperm donor – and my whole concept of “family” had to change. This led to discoveries: a new genetic half-sister; a reinforced concept of the value of “shared experience” and that family is what you embrace.

Every job loss, every relationship gone pffft!, every empty space left when you lose something is also an opportunity. Sometimes you know where to steer the boat – sometimes you don’t. In that case, some faith is required.

  • Stop flailing and complaining
  • Let Go of the past
  • Listen to what the world seemed to be telling me
  • Trust that you don’t know – or control – everything. But you do have choices.
  • Take a New Step off the boat onto that new land.

How about you? When have you been set adrift in the past, and what happened (oh, hindsight, you fantastic teacher). What did you learn? What new things did the open sea lead you do?

Unmoored. For now. Where will you travel to?

 

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Art: Creating for the Non-Artist

Word of the month for March:

Art.

Why?

Because I’m not an artist – at least, not a visual one.

Why do it, then?

Three reasons:

  • It can be fun.
  • It reaches another part of the brain
  • Hey, ya never know. Maybe you are a visual artist of sorts.

We all have our “gifts” – you know, the interests and abilities that  come to us easily, almost as if the universe is calling us to them.

painted field

Eviana Asked me to Draw This

For some of us, we see our purpose in the gifts that seem to have been there from birth. These mysterious talents (“I don’t know, I just started playing piano at age three and my parents couldn’t keep me away from it”) define us almost from the get-go. And well they should, in many cases.

But – what if we’ve let this definition of “who we are” cage us in too much? What can we gain if we just try some other things, letting go of having to be “good at it”? What if we open the door to another room and just live there for awhile and see what happens?

My word for March is “Art” because I want to see and feel what happens in the room.

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