Three days after my last blog post, one of my dearest friends was killed in a car accident. Any words I write feel insufficient. Briana and I talked on the phone that afternoon while she and her brother were driving home for Easter. Within the hour of our conversation, she was gone. Her broken body left on the side of the highway.

I met Briana on a beautiful April day in 2008.  Tess, my favorite botany study-buddy, insisted I meet her sister—a young single woman my same age—who had just become a midwife. We decided to celebrate the end of the semester by lounging in the grass, soaking up the warm sunshine. When Briana arrived, she sat tall in a cross-legged stance. She looked me in the eyes and listened as I told her about my interest in birth. After a few questions, she tore a page from her notebook and began writing: the best doula course to take, the essential books to read, the websites to reference. On our second visit she gifted me a copy of Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery. It was my first birth book. Months later Bri invited me to witness my first homebirth, to inspect my first placenta, to perform my first newborn exam.

Saturday, April 16, 2011. Briana had an apron tied around her waist and a phone cradled between her ear and shoulder when she came to the door. Her counter tops were crowded with scrumptiousness she’d spent days creating, in preparation for the “Momma Party”. I helped put together a blood orange salad and placed the shortbread batter into the oven. The house was flooding with women and babies who Briana had, or was, serving. I loved looking at them all, and hearing them talk of their birth experiences. Bri asked us all to introduce ourselves; she expressed that when she looked at each of us, she saw powerful women. She encouraged us to share with one another our thoughts on true power and womanhood.

The hours of good conversation and delicious food passed quickly. As people left, Bri took photos with the women and children and sent the families home with platefuls of baked goods. In preparation for moving, she was pairing down her belongings and had items for the taking: books, a child’s easel, plastic dishes, napkins…

By mid afternoon, Bri and I were the only ones in the house.  It was an uncharacteristically warm and sunny April day, and so we decided to soak it up by lounging in her back yard. She grabbed John’s childhood blanket—the one she always chose—and we spread it across the grass. Bri sighed a deep, relaxing sigh, and said how happy she was with how the party had turned out, but said it was hard to have everyone all together only because she wished she could have spent more individual time with each momma and baby.

Our conversations that afternoon bounced from topic to topic, as we drifted in and out of lazy summer sleep. We laughed at the love-struck quail that lived in her bushes. We talked about her family and her excitement at spending the upcoming Easter holiday with them. We talked about relationships. We talked about the value of change. I asked her to describe her ideal birth experience, and she explained how it had transformed over the course of her midwifery experience. She used to want the midwife with the most knowledge and skills. Now, she figured, she just wanted to be accompanied by those who had the most compassion.

I remember watching her as she lay there, eyes closed, grinning up at the warm sunshine. She was bathed in light. I remember her saying, “It has been such a perfect day. I just feel so full.” She repeated it with a soft smile. “I feel so full.”

Saturday, April 23, 2011. I played phone tag with Briana that morning. She called while I was at yoga. I called while she was busy with pre-travel plans. When she called back, she asked if I could do her a favor. She wanted to pay her tithing before our church boundaries changed. She explained that she didn’t have a tithing slip, but had left two checks in her house, and asked if I wouldn’t mind filling out some slips for her and delivering them to the Bishop. She was only going to be gone a week, so I thought it was a little odd, but of course it wasn’t a problem. I asked for Candice’s number so I could call and make sure someone was home when I went over. The phone conversation was brief.

A few hours later, when I called Candice to ask if it was a good time to pick up Bri’s tithing, I learned the heart-wrenching news. Briana was dead.

That Easter Sunday I handed the Bishop the most meaningful tithing slip I think I will ever touch in my life.

I know I am not alone in missing Bri. I only knew her for three years, but she absolutely changed my life. Two weeks after her death, I started school to become a midwife. Briana wrote one of the letters of recommendation for me, and it was because of her that I had sufficient birth-related experience to enter the program. But more than that, she was a kindred soul. Few days go by without me wishing I could just call her, to hear her voice, to ask her advice, or to share a story that would make her laugh.

Looking back, I am struck by the similarities between the first day I met Bri, and the last day I spent with her. They were both gorgeous April days, full of sunshine. They were both spent lounging in the bright green springtime. They were both days that felt full of goodness. That is how I will always remember her.

Shortly after her death, I saw Briana in a dream. She was beautiful. I was struck by how radiant she looked, fully cloaked in light. She didn’t say anything, but just looked at me with soft compassion. As if she recognized my pain, but wanted me to know that she is ok. Her face was full of peace.

A few weeks later, in another dream, she knocked on my door. “Briana!” I gasped. I pulled her into a tight squeeze and whispered, “I have so many things I’ve wanted to ask you!” In my dream I asked, “Have you seen God?” She looked at me with smiling eyes and laughed as she responded, “Of course I have.”

Briana still exists. This has become a familiar mantra to me. I look forward with hope to the day when I can again embrace her in my arms and share stories that make us both weep and laugh. Until then, I am trying to be a better doula, midwife, sister, daughter, teacher, friend, and woman because of her.

This is a photo I copied from Briana’s website:


7 Comments on “Briana.”

  1. Wendy says:

    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve lost a dear friend. Thanks for those sweet thoughts about how she changed your life.

  2. Candice rose says:

    thanks Analiesa. I love everything you said. Not sure what it is about today but I have thought of bri so much. I like to know that others think of her as often as I do. love c

  3. Vanessa says:

    I love hearing this from your perspective, especially the moments lounging on the blanket. At times I am really angry that I didn’t take up the offer to stay longer and bask in the sunshine with you both, but I am so glad that someone close to her was able to be near her on that special day. I have plenty of great memories and things I have treasured from my last day spent with her. She is still around, a busy woman with a mission to fulfill but not with us, with others.
    Love you,

  4. Tess says:

    Thanks, Ani, I love reading your memories of Bri. Just a day ago or so, I was remembering that evening when we were driving in Provo Canyon looking at wild edibles with __ (I forgot his name) for an EcoResponse activity and you told me you were interested in birth and being a midwife. I was so excited for you to meet Bri. We already had so many interests in common, I remember laughing out loud and thinking “I hope she won’t think I’m trying to ‘one-up’ her if I tell her my sister is a homebirth midwife.” Isn’t that hilarious!
    I’m glad we are friends and that you and Briana were such great friends, too. I remember many phone conversations when she told me she enjoyed spending time with you.
    I still haven’t had a vivid dream of Briana (someday, I hope!) but I’m glad she told you she has seen God 🙂
    I remember you told me other details from that dream that were also very interesting – about her homework assignment from God.
    I miss you! -Tess

  5. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for this gift. I only knew Briana for a couple of months before her death. I am soaking up everything you experienced with her.

  6. Kels says:

    Hi Analiesa, I’ve been thinking of Bri all morning, seeking comfort by swaddling myself in one of her sweaters that still manages to have that woodsy fresh Bri smell. Thank you for sharing your lovely memories; what a wonderful tribute. Your description of Bri sitting tall on the grass is so true. & I loved reading of your dream. Bri is the big sister that I held claim to by association since my birth & our identical hair rather than blood; I miss her so tangibly. Thank you for your post.

  7. […] in a long time. I laid down right next to her grave and just started talking. It felt so much like the last time I saw her, when we’d spent a sunny April afternoon lounging under the […]

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