Once upon a time, there lived a young, dancing princess. When she put her tap shoes on, audiences were mesmerized. She and her partner, Tommy, kicked up their heels and "cut a rug"—just as they'd been taught by their famously-known teacher, a one-time dancer from moving pictures and vaudeville shows.
Deep in her heart, the princess longed for her life to stand for something. She wanted her life to have meaning. She didn't know how to accomplish this. (After all, she was only nine.)
She wrote in her diary, "Ask for more things that show other girls that someone has been there."
It was her only entry.
One day while waiting for the school bus, the dancing princess slipped on the ice and was hit by an oncoming car. Her daddy carried her into the house. The ambulance rushed her to the hospital. But the doctors said there was nothing they could do. She died that same day.
Neighboring parents soon picketed the streets demanding changes in how bus stops were created. They fought to protect their own children from tragedies such as this. The newspapers ran stories about the young, dancing girl who died at the bus stop and soon the parents won their debate.
Because the dancing princess died, other children would be safe.
The story could have ended there, but it didn't.
Though gone for three years, the dancing princess had not been forgotten by her mother, father, or big brother—but her mother remembered her most of all.
And even though Mother had nearly past the age to do so, and doctors told her it was unsafe, she gave birth to another little girl.
When she turned nine, the living daughter found her dead sister's diary.
She stealthily crept away to her bedroom where she could read it in private. She turned through all the pages one by one. She wanted to know more about the dancing princess who she'd never met.
She found her sister's one and only entry.
Touched by the sister she'd only seen in pictures, of whom her parents rarely spoke, the living sister's heart opened and she received the message written on the page.
It was as if she'd known all along it would be there.
Around this same time, she read Anne Frank, The Diary of A Young Girl. She felt akin to the story because her sister's name was also Ann. She thought that, like Anne Frank, she could use writing as a means to reach out to others and to make sure her sister's message wasn't lost.
When she turned fifteen, her father died.
He had been ill for a very long time. Many times she had sat beside him in the hospital. He had suffered much. He'd stopped dancing, stopped playing the saxophone, stopped laughing. She did not cry when he died. She knew he had gone where he could dance with her sister and others who had passed before him.
Because she grew up in a family that had been greatly scarred by illness, tragedy, pain, and death, the living sister went in search of healing—not only for herself and her loved ones but for any and all who could be helped.
Along the way, she fell victim to cancer and faced other near-death situations as well. More than once, she placed her fingers on the threshold of heaven's gates. Yet she pushed back, her sister's words forever etched in her heart.
"Ask for more things that show other girls that someone has been there."
With great faith, she reached out to God and asked for help—and He responded:
He gave her a method and passion.
He showed her how to heal and transform her life.
He taught her lessons to share with others.
He gave her words to write down in a book.
In that book, she began to talk about Swans.
Why Swans? Because with the advent of the Ugly Duckling story (a Hans Christian Andersen classic), she was reminded of the beautiful, symbolic metaphor of the transformed Swan. A gift of redemption bestowed upon all those with an open heart who had faced tragedy, hardship, abandonment, illness, or abuse—particularly as a child.
Thus out of tragedy, a miracle of potential appeared.
Out of the ashes, a phoenix bird arose.
And the simple request of a dancing princess was exchanged for a lifelong quest to help others dance their dreams and live life to its fullest.