Remembering Ann

I’ve lost three people to cancer this year. All women, all around my same age, all business owners. First was the sister of one of my dearest friends, back in the spring. Last week it was our beloved POCA comrade Ann Rich. Then a few days ago, a patient.

So I’ve been to a couple of funerals in the last few months, and while they are sad, they are also so incredibly healing. I mean, that’s why we have them, right? I thought about this yesterday as I sat at my patient’s funeral, crying for a solid hour, holding my dear friend’s hand, the same friend who lost her sister in the spring. I thought of how grateful I was to be able to cry with her over those we’ve lost this year, for us to be able to embrace one another, to hug other friends and acquaintances, to grieve as one of a community.

To grieve as one of a community, to be physically present with others who are feeling the same loss, to bear witness to the tear-streaked cheeks and loss of words, is powerful. But we haven’t gotten to do it with Ann, because we’re all spread out. We’re apart. And as POCA we connect so well online, we accomplish so much virtually, but when a member of our community dies, we don’t get to hold each other’s hands, or cry on each other’s shoulders, or just dwell in silent remembrance together. We don’t get to be sad together in person, we don’t get to attend a funeral, but we can still grieve as a community. We still have our words. And we can use our words to express our sorrow, share our hopes and fears, and reflect back on what that person meant to us. And that’s what I’d like to do now in remembering Ann. If you have memories of her, I hope you’ll share them here.

Ann first got in touch with me about a year and a half ago as she was in the process of purchasing Ad Astra Acupuncture in Lawrence, KS. She contacted me via email and asked if I’d be her Clinic Success mentor. I said yes. After a few emails back and forth, I felt like I got to know Ann a little bit and had a few realizations. 1) Ann was really smart. She was so quickly able to identify some very specific challenges she faced in getting the clinic to where she wanted it to be. 2) Ann liked numbers and details. She was really organized. That was good! I love talking numbers too so I figured we’d work well together. 3) Ann had a LOT of energy and drive. The purchase of Ad Astra wasn’t even finalized before she was talking about expanding to a second location in Topeka. And she wasn’t just talking about it; she was looking at properties. 4) Ann had vision. She could see so clearly where she wanted to take the clinic, what she wanted to accomplish. 5) Ann really cared about the people around her. She talked about wanting to help her patients get comfortable with a new punk, and to help her coworkers get comfortable with a new person in charge. She knew Ad Astra was a special place and she wanted to reassure folks that it would continue to be special. She cared. 

After a few emails we scheduled a phone call. The conversation began and immediately Ann started cussing. Repeatedly. And then she started to apologize for cussing and I had to smile to myself and think back to when I first started getting involved with other CA folks and how it seemed to increase my own propensity for cussing. CA just seems to bring that out in us, you know? It’s like cussing is a byproduct of punking. So we laughed about that a little and the conversation continued with words like shitty, fucking, assholes and goddammit peppered in for color. As the conversation continued I started to think to myself, “My god, this woman is talking a lot…wow, she REALLY REALLY likes to talk…HOLY CRAP IS SHE EVER GOING TO CEASE TALKING???” If you’ve ever had a phone conversation with Ann, you’re laughing right now, right? Ann was a talker. The thing is, she had something to say. When I think of Ann, the old TCM adage “the tongue is the sprout of the heart” comes to mind. Ann spoke her passion.

Something else I realized as we talked during that first conversation was how much Ann was taking on emotionally. She had just moved back to the US after living in Canada for seven years. She wasn’t exactly happy about leaving Canada. No, I take that back. She was thoroughly pissed off about leaving Canada. Due to an immigration issue, she was leaving a community she loved in London, Ontario and resettling in a place she felt ambivalent about. But she was determined to make it work and nurture Ad Astra into a thriving Big Damn Clinic. Ann was also under a lot of financial strain – moving and purchasing the clinic had been a burden, but again, she was determined to make it work and the stress pushed her to work harder instead of giving up and losing hope. I was always impressed by her attitude. It wasn’t a naive hope that everything would all work out if she just believed. No, it was a refusal to back down from the very real challenges she faced and a willingness to do the hard work. Ann was resilient. 

The only time I got to spend in person with Ann was at Twin Cities POCAfest last year. We were both really looking forward to connecting in person after so many emails and phone calls. I remember when I first saw her, the first thing I thought was, “huh, her hair is short and brown.” I was anticipating the long, flowing golden locks on her POCA profile picture. The second thing I thought was, “wow, she’s tall.” Isn’t it funny how so often people are much taller or shorter in real life than how you imagine them? Ann and I had some good talks that weekend. I think at times she felt a little overwhelmed by the intense group energy of POCAfest. At the same time, I think she felt comfortable just being herself. At one point during the weekend, she had several of us crowded around an iPad to watch a Nicky Minaj video where someone had dubbed over the music with fart noises. So in addition to being smart, organized, detail-oriented, caring, passionate, and resilient, Ann also had the sense of humor of an adolescent boy. 

After Ann got sick, we still talked about her goals, the work she wanted to do, her vision for Ad Astra. That fierce determination came through as strong as always. She continued working through her chemo treatments. She still talked about that second location in Topeka. Even when she was really sick, she never lost her heart to serve her community. Ann would not give up.

The last time Ann and I spoke was about two months ago. Even though I could tell she was tired, I still heard that familiar passion in her voice. She was determined to live out the rest of her life on her own terms, going home to Washington and traveling. She’d found a buyer for Ad Astra and asked if I’d continue to be his Clinic Success mentor. I said of course. In the face of such unfairness at having her own life cut short, she wanted to do everything she could to ensure that her clinic, her patients, and her community would still be taken care of. 

There’s something I remember from the weekend we got to hang out in Twin Cities: Ann said that everything in her life she related back to rowing. She was on her college rowing team at Washington State, and obviously rowing was a big part of her life. When I think about Ann and what I know of her, I can absolutely see how rowing was a metaphor for how she approached life. I can picture Ann on the water. Strong. Focused. Determined. Working with others towards a common goal, and acutely aware of her job, her responsibility, her contribution to the greater good. Exactly how she was as a punk. On Ann’s Facebook page, listed under her favorite quotes is this: “Part of the group, yet fully removed.” Just like a rower. Just like a punk. Ann was her own person, but always part of something larger. And I’m so grateful, Ann, that for a time, you were a part of my group. 

Author: alexa

Hey y'all!  I opened my CA clinic here in beautiful Music City, USA, in January 2010.  I love hanging out with other community acupuncturists, so come visit!

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  1. I also met her at the Twin Cities pocafest and was blown away by her presence. Nothing was stopping her and she doesn’t take shit from anyone. I loved her lion personality and grateful our paths crossed for a few days. Thanks for this beautiful post.

  2. Alexa thank you so much for writing this. Ann was my patient when she punked in London ON, a few hours away from Guelph. I have to say I laughed out loud at this: “HOLY CRAP IS SHE EVER GOING TO CEASE TALKING???” She talked my bloody ear off after her first treatment! But, like you, I had time for her. I could really see why she needed to talk. She was taking care of a lot of people while dealing with so much: Ontario licensure (a regulatory mess) as well as issues with landlords, and THEN the immigration nightmare. Her patients were fucking destroyed when she had to close shop in London and move back to the States. They were contacting us and practically begging me to re-open a CA clinic in London. I was so damn happy to hear that she’d landed at Ad Astra, after all she’d been through. You’re right about her determination and resiliency. I have no doubt that she was a kickass punk. She won’t be forgotten.

  3. Ann was awesome and I was so glad to know her, even though it was mostly via the internet and facebook. I was glad she got ahold of Nic’s clinic when he was selling it, so glad it didn’t have to close. I’ve never been there but it has long been a little dot in a vast open space there in the middle of my clinic POCA map, and what would those folks have done without their clinic? How f—ing badass is it to move to a place you’ve never been and buy a clinic there and just go jump in with it all, I mean wow that takes guts and determination and dedication and more when you are also in the throes of having to leave a clinic that you founded that needs you and you have no choice in the matter to stay. What an amazing woman she was to navigate all of that. I will think of her when I think of Canada, and Kansas, and Seattle, and rowing, and dachshunds, and when I read the Oatmeal, and play Exploding Kittens.