The loss of a child is nothing easy for a mother to overcome, but after the death of King’s student Abby Bryant, the celebration of her life and accomplishments became most important to her mother.
Sandra Bryant still does become emotional when talking about her daughter’s passing, but she said the important thing is to stay positive and remember the happy times she had with Abby.
Those happy times were all the time, said Sandra. She said everyday Abby shined with a smile that will certainly be remembered.
“Abby was the type of person (who) couldn’t do wrong. She was kind of all good, so if Abby did it, it was okay. And I don’t think anyone out there would ever argue that,” she said.
When Abby was just three years old she was diagnosed with Leukemia and at five she received a bone marrow transplant. The chemotherapy and radiation treatment prolonged her life, but it caused her to develop pulmonary fibrosis – a condition that causes the lungs to harden.
By the time Abby was in her late teens her lungs practically smothered her. They became so hard that they couldn’t breathe.
“If you were to ask her she’d tell you (she was) a 19-year-old girl, in an 80-year-old body who looked like they were 12,” Sandra said. “So it was challenging for her, the whole time, as far as athletics because she wanted to be part of everything, but couldn’t because of her lack of breath.”
When Abby was in the hospital Sandra said she would walk along the halls making everyone else feel good. “These people were all 70 and getting older and here she is 20, and guess who’s gone?”
Even though some days made it nearly impossible to breathe, Sandra said Abby was always smiling.
The amount of charity work Abby did for the fight against cancer was one of the ways she tried to bring happiness to others. She was one of the five people who brought The Friends of Gilda’s to Halifax – a society that offers free support for anybody affected by cancer.
It initially started in New York City as Gilda’s Club Worldwide after Gilda Radner, who was most famous for her work on Saturday Night Live, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
As a child Abby wanted to include everyone around her. A vacation to Bermuda was just one example. “She walked along the beach and asked everybody to dinner. ‘Would you like to come to our house for dinner?’ And here we are in a hotel,” Sandra said.
And in Disneyland, during the parades, Abby wanted to be part of it. So little Abby, dressed as Buzz Lightyear, took it upon herself in the spurt of the moment and joined the parade.
Abby loved everything about King’s – the professors, her friends and especially the Foundation Year Programme. To her and her mother King’s was the Harry Potter School because of the design.
She fell in love with philosophy. “Everybody told her how hard that (FYP) course was and how many books you had to read, but it didn’t stop her,” Sandra said. “She loved it and once she got into it, she did phenomenal.”
Abby once said, “I don’t want to make a difference, I want to be the difference.”
And a difference she became. There was a memorial service for her back in May at St. Mary’s Basilica in Halifax. The church, which seats hundreds, overflowed with people and even a crowd gathered in the streets.
Even in Abby’s room, in the bureau under her bed, lay stacks and stacks of cards with condolences. So many that they had to be categorized into piles – who Sandra was able to respond to and the cards she may never have time to get to.
“What’s so crazy is that Abby didn’t know. She would be amazed,” Sandra said. “She didn’t know that she was accepted. She didn’t understand that people liked her.”
But people did like her, especially her girlfriend Megan Drover.
“I was so happy that she had found love, that nothing could lessen that,” Sandra said.“ To me there’s no other beauty than that. And how lucky she was. And I love Megan. She is just the dearest, sweetest woman.”
When asked how she wants her daughter to be remembered Sandra said, “As a sweet, caring, talented, young woman.”
“She wanted to make the world a better place,” she added. “I believe that Abby did make the world a better place.”