She was very very intelligent and talented. She was my violin student from Age 8 to 18. She was only 26 when she died.
Ariana’s mother, Debbie, was also my violin student, and it was she who found Ariana’s body. One morning in April Debbie walked by her daughters room and noticed that she was asleep at her computer. She gently shook her to wake her up and send her to her bed. She discovered that Ariana was stiff and ice cold.
The police were there by 8:30am. The ambulance didn't come until 1pm because the police needed to collect evidence from the "unintentional death" scene. Debbie just sat quietly with Ariana’s ice cold body and then watched as they took her daughter out of her room, out of her home in a body bag.
And now her life has to continue, somehow....
Ariana was the baby in her family and very loved and cared for. She was a sweet and very very bright little girl, but also quiet and sad most of the time. Creative, musical, deep, always reading and writing and playing or listening to music. She always struggled with her emotions. As a toddler she would pull on the skin on her face and thighs when frustrated or upset, actually puncturing the skin. When she was able to talk, that behavior went away but she was very reserved and shy, evolving into an outstanding student, intellectually gifted, but socially withdrawn. At nine years old she told her school counselor “I am sad all the time and I don’t know why. I love my family and my house and my cat. I’m just always sad”.
She graduated from high school 2nd in her class, the salutatorian, with perfect grades and an invitation to go to every college she applied to, despite a very difficult journey through her teens.
Ariana went away to New York University and quickly flunked out. When she spoke to me about it, she blamed not adjusting to dorm life, health issues and “alcoholism”.
Ariana suffered from a congenital disorder that caused dangerous blood clots and great pain. She was put on strong pain meds, starting at about age 12. She later had surgery at age 18 that alleviated some of the pain. By that time she was addicted to opioids, simply because she’d been taking the meds prescribed for her. This became a great problem. She needed more and more to feel ok. Then she never really felt ok and still needed more and more. Then, with a little help from some “friends”, she first turned to booze, then weed, then harder drugs and heroin. Her physical health went up and down. Her emotional health was all over the place. She told me once that she felt that her brain just didn't work right. Maybe it never did. She was often suicidal. She was diagnosed with depression. Then bipolar disorder. Then borderline personality disorder. For years she was put on a roller coaster of meds for the physical and roller coaster of mental illness diagnosis’s. And there was the addiction to opioids....created by her doctors??!!?? And perpetuated by dealers, criminals, very bad people.
Ariana’s family still doesnt know for sure exactly what killed her. The Commonwealth is “backed up” with autopsies. They and the police do not believe it was suicide. She was actually pretty stable and upbeat just prior to her death. Just four bags of heroin were found in her room, and she had only opened and consumed (through her nose, not intravenously) one. For someone like Ariana, this was not a great amount and it was not enough to kill her, unless it was “bad” heroin.
Debbie’s pain is palpable, a deep dark cave. She doesn’t go out anymore, except for work. She spends hours in the room where Ariana died, going through her books, artwork, diaries, all the things that Ariana treasured. She mostly “stays mute”.
Of course, I think of my child, who is about the same age and has to fight the same world, the same bad people, demons on the outside and inside.
Eight months after her death, I continue to pray there is a God who protects our children when we can’t. I feel that Ariana now knows peace and is okay, that her pain is done. I pray that Debbie and Ariana’s older sister and father are especially loved and protected. I continue to vacillate between rage and heartbreak.
Rest in peace, Ariana. I will always love you and will never forget you. I pray that your story will help right the some of the outrageous wrongs that led to the end of your young life.