The Liberty Gazette
May 27, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: AnnElise Bennett directs her energy to lifting others up, giving tirelessly with compassion and encouragement. Heartbreaking circumstances have taught her to meet challenges daily with perspective: to water the flowers, not the weeds.
After the accident last year that took her precious youngest daughter Sarah, her “Sunshine Girl”, two months before graduation from Stephen F. Austin State University, AnnElise took charge of her emotional health and began to feel her way through the darkness of grief.
Each of us travels that journey in our own way, and this pilot, air racer, skydiver-dropper lady faces the grief that follows the loss of her 21-year old child, as a pilot-in-command.
She created an endowment at the university in Sarah’s name, honoring her passion for photography with scholarships. Having long been a fitness buff, she continued to challenge herself physically with yoga, Crossfit, and gymnastics. At 56, she’s more fit than most people in their 20’s.
Linda: The first year is hard.
What to do, as much as what not to do on the date that marks one year since the start of so much pain, deserves great attention to the heart. Approaching that mark, AnnElise steered her course: to Machu Picchu, Peru, with family members.
Intensely interested and prayerfully supportive, I watched for what she would share knowing it would be completely AnnElise, and completely Sarah.
Then one after another came Facebook photos of handstands. Maybe they started as a funny pose on this special trip, but what’s evolved is a story of inspiration.
Sister-daughter-niece handstands in Moray and Lima, and all over Peru began to signify the AnnElise’s message, helping her fight the sorrow by telling the world about the funny, blissful girl Sarah was. Fighting sadness by sharing happiness.
Back from Peru with an undeniable urge to handstand, her upside-down way that helps turn pain into Sharahing Sunshine is quickly catching on.
What doubles the pleasure is that her sister Carol has been part of it from the beginning, and now their daily handstand photos are among the things I most look forward to on the social media site.
In the Bennett Easter family portrait is AnnElise, handstanding. Against a Southwest Airlines B737 engine nacelle are AnnElise and Carol, handstanding. Next to the windsock at the Bennett’s grass runway, handstanding.
Carol, a concert cellist, in handstand pose, titled one photo, “Chilling-With-The-Maestro-Before-The-Concert-Handstand”.
Handstanding in the orchestra pit, the dressing room, with a Silver Fairy from the ballet Sleeping Beauty, at the door of Homeland Security, while broken down on the side of the road awaiting a tow truck, upon a suspension bridge, helping young ladies primp for the prom, up against a police car (officer in photo too, smiling), and in front of a ladder truck as the firemen were grocery shopping.
When Carol posed with a cat atop her feet, AnnElise replied with a photo titled, “I’ll-See-Your-Cat-and-Raise-You-A-Rooster-Handstand”.
Then Carol found a photo of Sarah at the beach – doing a handstand.
Now others are posting handstand photos, under water, in front of the U.S. Congress building, and the sunshine is spreading because these handstands make a statement.
For AnnElise it’s about not letting the sadness win. From the fun comes the deep-seated intent of the act: to Share the Sunshine. Pass it on.