For this new school year, my senior(!) year, I’m taking a feature writing class. Our first assignment was to write our own obituary. Morbid? Yeah, just a bit. Difficult? Extremely.
A senior journalism major at Brigham Young University passed away after a seemingly mild case of spontaneous dental hydroplosion turned deadly in a matter of minutes.
Just days ago Anna Wendt celebrated turning 21 ½.
Born and raised in quintessential “small town” Wisconsin, Anna returned to her beloved home state whenever possible, always taking time to marvel at the lakes, rivers and trees she left behind for higher education at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. With a population barely over 10,000, Anna’s hometown of Cedarburg, Wis. still provided adventure throughout her life. She spent her days wading and kayaking in the nearby creek, fishing with her father and brother and stargazing with friends in the large, grassy field behind her house.
Anna lives on in the memories of her father, Harold; her mother, Susan; her brother, Alex; and friends from her days in both Wisconsin and Utah. Family and friends describe her and her life in the following ways: dedicated and hard-working; relaxed, one who goes with the flow; witty; completely nerdy while addicted to sports; traditional yet unorthodox; thrill seeking with a great respect for the rules; compassionate and insistent on making people laugh.
But if one had to choose a single word to describe Anna’s life, it would probably be active.
Anna loved playing tennis, soccer, racquetball and practically every other sport she tried. She spent many of her free evenings in Utah on her longboard. Forget her first crush, first kiss or first romantic interest of any kind; Anna proudly and unashamedly declared baseball to be her first true love. Her summers between semesters at BYU were never complete without attending at least one Milwaukee Brewers game. She devoured autobiographies of athletes, enthusiastically and unapologetically supported her favorite teams and hardly let a day go by without talking sports with her father. Watching, playing, writing and reading about sports prominently defined her.
But it wasn’t only sports that took over her life. Anna embraced her “nerd persona” early on. Words intrigued her and she read well at the age of four; once she started reading she never stopped. The “Harry Potter” series influenced her life greatly. Though the boy wizard did not inspire her to love reading or turn her into a reader, Harry and his friends definitely kept her interested in reading. Eventually crossword puzzles and the long-running trivia show “Jeopardy!” invaded her life. Learning new facts and words, both practical and not, also extended beyond the English language. Anna was fluent in Spanish and began learning Italian during her junior year at BYU. Though many called her thick, black frames “hipster,” Anna wore her glasses in order to further showcase her nerd persona. So with her two loves of athletics and wordplay, the notion of becoming a sports journalist quickly turned into Anna’s only viable option for a future career.
Sports and writing aside, Anna found joy, guidance, humor and solace in the world of YouTube. The words of New York Times best-selling author and YouTube celebrity John Green and full-time YouTuber Shay Butler influenced Anna profoundly. Her self-proclaimed “four-fold mission in life” revolved around things she learned from Green, Butler and the YouTube community as a whole:
1) Happiness is a choice.
2) Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.
3) The secrets of life are hidden behind the word cliché.
4) Don’t forget to be awesome.
Documented on her personal blog for the first time less than six months before her death, Anna’s four-fold mission remains as an example of how a short life need not be an unfulfilled one.