So I want to tell you a story.
You all know by now that each summer I perform alongside some of my best friends in a Broadway review that’s also a camp for youngsters interested in the performing arts. This year, for the first year, my daughter was able to be a camper. She was so excited and also nervous — which was funny because unlike most kids just starting, she had attended oodles of rehearsals during prior years due to my lack of desire to pay a babysitter. At any rate, she arrived on that first day and sat down in the very large circle with all the other campers. She happened to sit next to a little girl who, for the sake of this post, we shall refer to as Rockstar. Rockstar was a year older than my daughter, and it was also her first year. Neither girl was shy, so they started a conversation. My daughters nerves were immediately eased because this slightly older girl had given her permission to feel comfortable. By just being her friendly self, she had snapped my daughter out of the jitters she never needed to have in the first place. I watched from my seat behind them and I smiled. “What a sweet kid,” I thought.
Rehearsals continued as usual. Rockstar always grabbed my attention because she was always having fun and she was just too adorable. And that was that. Life as usual. No remarkable stories to tell.
Until one day, the week of the show, Rockstar wasn’t there. Now, sometimes kids aren’t able to get out of a prior commitment so no one thought too much of it… until the directors of the show pulled aside all us alumni and explained what had happened. Rockstar was in the hospital in a medically induced coma. Essentially, she had had a brain aneurysm, had brain surgery, and was fighting for her life.
WHAT?! We were all devastated. All I could picture was that sweet face; her missing front tooth giving way to breathing tubes. Rockstar was at the forefront of our thoughts for the rest of the week – and the weeks thereafter. Her sister still managed to perform with us throughout all this insanity. We never knew how Rockstar would do when she came out of the coma. Would she be able to speak? Move? Neither? What awaited her on the other side?
She came out of her coma and, though there were many steps to take between that first moment and today, she is back to her amazing self. She and her sisters wrote a rap song about the entire ordeal. Yes, a full, well thought out rap song. It’s incredible and I urge you to ask her to sing it to you if you ever see her. It’s outrageously good. Like, call Ellen and get her to see it good.
After a while in the hospital and then Spaulding Rehab, Rockstar came home. Then there was another aneurysm found. It hadn’t ruptured yet but it was extremely worrisome and so doctors suggested another surgery. A scary surgery. A questionable outlook surgery.
At this point, I hadn’t met Rockstar’s parents yet, though her Mum and I had exchanged a few comments when she wrote on the Facebook page of Rockstar’s school (where my daughter also attends). Last Saturday, Rockstar’s Mum reached out to me. “Hey Kerry – I have a question/favor to ask. Rockstar has to go in for another neurosurgery early this week and it’s a risky one. We are feeling super anxious but trying to make this weekend together the 5 of us as a family a nice one and it occurred to me we have no decent family photos of all of us together recently. I’m wondering super last minute – Is there any chance you might be around tomorrow (Sun) to take a handful of photos of us? Just feeling desperate to capture a moment in time and our world is fairly upside down lately. No worries if you aren’t around, I know it’s a long shot, but you popped into my head!”
It was a crazy weekend but I had to make this work. I just… HAD to. We managed to find a time for later that Saturday afternoon and met quickly at Webb Park in Weymouth. We found a great spot by my favorite weeping willow in the park. I told them to just play and be silly and goofy and love on each other. It’s the same exact thing I tell all my families… but I really wanted these guys to be able to achieve that. And, because they’re all seriously awesome — seriously – every single one of them is amazing — it was a delightful and easy session.
Rockstar’s surgery was Wednesday. I expedited this gallery and sent it off to Mum with my hopeful prayers. Wednesday came and every single thought of my day involved Rockstar. ‘Come on, girlfriend. You got this. Show them your magic.’
Around 2pm, the parent group from the school was forwarded this message from Rockstar’s mum: “Remarkable news!! Rockstar’s out of surgery. When they went in they found that her aneurysm had spontaneously thrombosed – which basically means it had clotted itself off, so there wasn’t a need for a specific medical intervention to destroy it. While this was possible it wasn’t likely, so this is truly fantastic news! They actually don’t even need to keep her here at the hospital past today. Thanks to all for the prayers and love as always and especially today. I believe this child has an angel on her shoulder.”
I was so honored to be chosen to capture this special and important time. I am so happy that this session no longer carries the possible weight it could’ve. I am so, so happy that Rockstar will have the opportunity to write more rap songs. Maybe she’ll get to meet her hero, Lin Manuel Miranda. She’s got Hamilton on the brain. They played it for her at Children’s Hospital when she was leaving. She is young, scrappy and hungry. She’s a Rockstar. Her sisters are rockstars. And her parents are rockstars. This family is truly incredible. It’s an honor to know them and to laugh with them. I hope we get to hang out and do this again sometime.