Anne Laurie was sitting on the floor of her bedroom, trying to find the words.
The usual sparkle in her voice was gone. Her face was tired. She had spent the last week trying to process the news, and it had distracted her from her studies, usually the thing that grounds her. She even missed a couple of classes.
On Thanksgiving Day she learned her mother Enid tested positive for COVID. A week later the news got worse.
“We found out that not only does my mother have COVID, but they saw something else. She also has a relapse of leukemia,” she said softly to her iPhone camera.
Since the start of school this year, Anne Laurie has chronicled her experiences as a senior at Everett High School through interviews and video diary updates as part of GBH News’ COVID and the Classroom series. She has described the challenges of trying to stay motivated as she powers through long days of remote learning. She has also shared the devastating impact of COVID on her family.
This is the second time Enid has been diagnosed with COVID. The first time she contracted the disease, in April, she was out of work for two months. She is the sole breadwinner of the family, working long hours as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). While Enid was out of work and quarantined in their home, Anne Laurie and her older sister Kenny made meals and left them outside of her bedroom door.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, her father Michel was fighting for his life. He had recently beaten colon cancer and had been living cancer-free for only four months when he, too, contracted COVID last spring. On April 28, after two weeks on a ventilator, he passed away.
Until recently, Anne Laurie had coped with her father’s death through some measure of denial.
“I just didn’t believe it. And I always thought, ‘Yeah, my father — he’s alive, he’s in New Jersey. It was really hard to take in,” Anne Laurie said in a Nov. 2 video diary entry.
It wasn’t until last month, when she and her family drove to New Jersey for his memorial service, that Anne Laurie said the loss of her father really sunk in.
“I was forced to accept it because I had no other choice. I didn’t get to say goodbye, and that’s really heavy on my heart,” she said.
READ MORE: More From Anne Laurie Pierre
In these last few months, Anne Laurie has channeled her stress and sadness into her studies, filling out 20 college applications and running the club she founded as a forum to discuss issues around race, Empowering Young Black Excellence. She also works part-time at Panera. Her schedule is nonstop and sometimes leaves her exhausted, but Anne Laurie thrives on being busy.
“I just love events. I love togetherness.” Anne Laurie said in a video diary posted right after Thanksgiving.
But with the news of her mom’s relapse, it’s hard to look forward to anything right now, including an upcoming milestone: She turns 18 a week before Christmas.
“I don't know, should I even celebrate my birthday? Just— so much is happening. And I'm just so over this year, this month, just everything,” Anne Laurie said in a recent video diary entry.
Enid is the glue of the family, and she has big dreams for Anne Laurie. Her onetime aspiration of becoming a doctor has been passed down to her daughter, who wants to become an obstetrician/gynecologist to lower the high maternal mortality rate among Black women.
“I feel like I can live out her dream in my dream. And although she wasn't able to become a doctor, I'll be able to become a doctor and she'll be satisfied that her child gets to live out her dream for her,” Anne Laurie said in a November interview.
The troubling news about her mom came on the heels of a thrilling couple of weeks. Anne Laurie has already received two college acceptance letters, propelling her ambition closer to reality.
But for now, all of that has been overshadowed.
“I’m really really really consumed by fear right now,” Anne Laurie wrote in a text message. “I’m just scared I might lose my mom. I’m really scared.”
Sitting cross-legged on her bedroom floor, her expression wavered between sadness and disbelief.
“I don't know how to deal with it. I don't really have people to talk to about it. I don't know how to talk to people about it, so I just keep it all to myself and I'm really scared and I'm in shock. I still don't believe it. Honestly, I don't. It's so overwhelming. I don't even know how to — I don't even know how I feel.”
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