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  • 1. Circa mid-2000s

    I was a little kid with knobby knees and bony elbows during my time at tiny Hope Elementary in tiny Hope, Rhode Island. I like to think that my grade school years were the prime of my life. I was intelligent, well liked, athletic, and friendly. High school has robbed me of some of those qualities, I think.
    Anyway, since I liked everyone back then, I was always tagging along after the kids a year above me. I'd sit on the outskirts of their groups and hope to be included in the conversation. My mom was friends with their parents, so I often got shuffled in with them at events. I'd be slightly in awe of their age and superiority and a little nervous to intrude. Remarkably, these girls welcomed me into their group and tolerated my tripping along after them. One of them was named Ali Mink, and she had beautiful, long brown hair, and an infectious laugh.

    2. 2010-11

    Fast forward to somewhere between the end of eighth grade and the beginning of freshman year. Ali was diagnosed with brain cancer, and our little community did all sorts of fundraising for them. In a town as small as Hope, everyone knows everyone, and everyone felt for the family and the emotional and financial hardships they were facing. Ali stayed at school for a while before getting pulled out for treatment. She'd be in periodically, and then out again. It felt like the town had gotten punched in the stomach and was trying to get its breath back. How could this happen to us? How could a teenage girl have to deal with brain cancer? How could her parents her brother her friends cope with that?

    3. June 2012

    The end of my sophomore year was the last time I saw Ali in school. She came to the cross country sign up meeting, and the team was thrilled that she'd be able to run again, because she'd missed the previous season. A few weeks later, Victoria told me that they'd found two more tumors in Ali's brain, and one had grown into the bones of her face. One would be removed with surgery, and the other with radiation. Ali couldn't run cross country that year. She was out of school for the last two months of the year, because she was at risk of seizures. Throughout this, she kept smiling. At least she would miss final exams, she would say.

    4. Fall 2012

    In September, Ali was crowned homecoming queen. Normally I scoff at the homecoming court proceedings because I think it's petty and shallow, but this was different. She couldn't be there to receive her crown, and she couldn't attend the dance. I think everyone was thinking about her, though.
    Last week, word got out that Ali's cancer was terminal. She was given 3-4 weeks to live. Over the course of a week, our cliquey high school has come together like I wouldn't have imagined to support Ali and her family. She slipped in and out of consciousness for a few days before going blind - the cancer cut off her optic nerve. The plan was to wear pink today to show our love to Ali, because pink was her favorite color.
    Last night, Ali Mink died. Today was the hardest day Scituate High School has ever seen. It was bizarre and sad. It's incredible how much one human being has affected one small community. The school was a sea of pink. People wandered the halls crying. The school felt shell shocked. No one really knew what to do. Some teachers didn't even try to hold class, it was just a painful and confusing day.
    I'm not going to pretend I was closer to Ali than I really was. We didn't talk once we got to middle school. I didn't know her that well. What I do know is that she was stunning, intelligent, and genuinely nice. I will never forget the kindness she showed me in so long ago in elementary school. Her death has shaken Scituate up and put my life into perspective. Life is so tragically ephemeral and sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I forget how amazing it is that I can do little things like go to concerts with my friends or run or go to high school. This story is a terribly inadequate expression of what I'm trying to say.
    To think Mink family, my thoughts are with you. Ali Mink was a rare treasure that Scituate was so privileged to have, and she is irreplaceable.
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