On Thursday, November 9, 2017, we celebrated Maya's life.
We shared the photos and text below during the ceremony and wanted to share them here as well.
We hope that they help you remember our sweet Maya.
Meditations of the Heart - the poem Aunt Amy read
Do not stand at my grave and weep - the poem Aunt Marianne read.
Video: The Maya Songs - Marianne and Anthony visited us in Windhoek in 2004 when Maya was 4 months old. They wrote these songs for her.
Video: The First Six Years - Anthony recorded the songs in the studio. They serve as the soundtrack for a slideshow of her first six years.
Maya Fairbanks Memorial Scholarship Fund - Camp Northwood - Camp was a very special place for Maya. She loved to be part of such a caring and fun community. We raised more than $23,000. Thank you.
Maya was born on August 16, 2004 on a cool winter morning in Windhoek, Namibia.
I remember looking at her for the first time thinking that she looked exactly how I imagined.
During her first two years, she was well loved by our Namibian friends who often wondered what we put in her milk.
She looks like she is tied together with rubber bands, they'd say.
She was given an Otjiherero name - Uza - meaning "you give and therefore you receive" and that she did.
Maya spent her early days keeping cool, swinging in our hammock and hanging out with her big brother, Mac.
She traveled with us all over Namibia.
To Cape Town, South Africa and Victoria Falls, Zambia.
And to the soft sandy beach of Zanzibar , where she decided to take her first steps.
When we first moved to Gettysburg, she loved exploring new places...
...building with Legos and pushing her red plastic shopping cart around town.
Not too much later, Ani was born. While she may not have always shared with Ani or let Ani in her room, she loved Ani so much. There is not a teacher, bus driver, camp counselor or friend who doesn't know about Ani.
Even if they had never met Ani, they knew all about her because Maya loved telling everyone all about her sister.
When we finally convinced Maya to retire her shopping cart, it became her job to push Ani in her stroller and she did for years.
Maya loved going grocery shopping because she loved to push the cart, stop for a cookie at the bakery, grab some chocolate covered pretzels in aisle 6 and a lollipop at the bank to add to her collection. She loved to go for long walks around town and stop for breakfast or lunch at the Lincoln dinner.
In recent years, we knew the cluster of seizures was over and she was on the mend when she wanted to go the Lincoln Dinner for cheeseburger, fries and chocolate milk.
She loved to watch cake videos - specifically Ro on Nerdie Nummies and Liv Hanson on Betty Crocker kitchen. She loved donuts, M&Ms, s'mores, Ghoster, playing basketball, doing word searches and finding hidden pictures.
She also loved swimming, specifically in an outdoor pool. She would jump off the diving board and swim to the ladder dozens of times. She'd always get on the diving board, ask what kind of jump she should do next - cannonball? flip? dive? - and then she'd just jump off the same way as she always did.
The only movie she ever wanted to watch was Frozen and she watched it often. She giggled at Olaf and loved that Ana unfroze her sister's heart. She also loved to listen to the High School Musical soundtrack and Taylor Swift songs. She'd sing and shake her bottom and laugh.
Maya loved giving hugs, offering them to teachers and friends and us often. She loved to snuggle in bed, take naps on our arm and be read to - Magic tree house, the Bearenstein Bears and the Mezuzah on the Door were among her favorites.
And, of course, she loved to do puzzles. Most of us start with the edges to make it easier, but Maya never used that method. She preferred to pick a piece out of the box and put it in its place. She always knew just where it belonged. Once when she was little she dumped three puzzles out at the same time when my mother was visiting. When my mom said "ut-oh, Maya we are going to be in trouble" she just laughed. "Silly Grandma, I can do it."
Maya loved to go horseback riding. We'd pull into the arena and even if she was crabby in the car, she'd smile for the entire 45 minutes she was on the horse. They called her Giggles at Shining Stars, because that's all her did when she was there.
She was so thankful when Red, the horse she road, gave her a balloon on her 13th birthday.
There are things Maya hated too - showers, combing her hair, getting her hands wet, and eating any vegetable besides carrots, broccoli and edamame and, did I say the shower? She hated that spray in her face and would cry about it nearly every day.
Maya had many "things" as she called them - food erasers, Lego dolls, pieces of candy, necklaces, balls and stuffed toys. She meticulously sorted them in different bags and places around her room and she knew exactly what was where. Each "thing" came out at just the right time to match her shirt, to show to someone special or go with the book she was reading or sometimes for a reason we didn't understand, but she did. Over the years she always had a favorite thing, though.
As a baby she held on to a little plastic red drum stick. Then it was Barney, then Grover, then Greenie.
Most recently, it was George. Many hours were spent loving those guys. When we encouraged her to leave them at home or in the car she always said with big tears in her eyes "but they'll miss me. They want to go" and we usually caved in.
These guys didn't just bring her comfort; they were her way of communicating, of engaging with people, of showing care. She'd talk through George. He always wanted what she wanted and felt what she felt. If I suggested something for George she say, "Mom, George is a stuffed animal."
Nothing came easy for Maya. There were times we thought she'd never crawl or walk or put words together. But she figured it out in her own time. We always worried about her having friends. But, to Maya everyone was a friend. She knew everyone's name, what they liked, what they had for lunch. Sometimes she'd share things that others didn't necessarily want to be shared, but that was part of her charm. She couldn't tell a lie and couldn't keep a secret.
Sometimes kids didn't always get her, but she showed her friendship thoughtfully. She sat with Sam at lunch and helped Tabyn on and off the school van, she gave hugs when people were sad and always teased Charlie with her eyeglasses, and, when at camp, she took it upon herself to help Madison.
She loved Camp Northwood. Every summer, they gave her the gift of a very purposeful community in which she could thrive. On visiting day, it always felt like she had matured so much in just a few weeks. She was confident and knowledgeable and so proud to show us all her friends and share her superpower, which these last two years was kindness and helpfulness.
She loved her cousin and her grandparents and would tell everyone she knew when relative were coming to visit days in advance. She didn't always want to talk on the phone, but when she did she made sure to talk to everyone in the house. If she was talking to Grandma, she'd say "Where's Papa?" If she was talking to Marianne, she always wanted to see Elsa and Ada on Facetime.
Maya also loved Halloween.
Costume planning would start when she got home from camp in August. Her costume was always be whatever she was into that year. Sometimes it became a family ordeal and other times she had her own costume, but she loved preparing for the big day, going door to door and saving her candy in her pumpkin for months to come.
Maya often missed the big picture and social cues, but she noticed things that nobody else did. We'd pull into the pool parking lot and she'd tell us everyone who was there. If we challenged her, she say something like, don't you see those black door handles? That means it's so-and-so's car. At the grocery store, she'd let us know what we had and didn't have in the house. "Maya do we still have Honey Bunches of Oats?" "Yes, there is a box left." "Maya, do we need apples?" "Yes," she'd say "You ate the last one." And, she was never wrong. We learned quickly to never doubt Maya.
These last three years were really hard on Maya's body. We tried every medicine and every doctor and yet we could never get the seizures to stop. Even in the weeks between seizures when she was well, I was constantly concerned about her. "I'm fine, Mom" she'd say. But, she was still in my final thoughts as I went to sleep and the first thing I was concerned with as I opened my eyes in the morning. Although she is gone, I don't believe that is going to change.
She taught us patience, to accept others for who they are, to giggle often, to hug more and to not be afraid to sing out of tune.
As we told Ani the other night, we now have the honor of having Maya's spirit and love and laughter with us everywhere we go.
Maya loved celebrating her birthday.
So, let us celebrate thirteen years of Maya by sharing memories with each other, eating her favorite foods and doing some puzzles together.