Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Rest in Peace Angel... Rest in Peace
Andrea Smith Punk Rock Mommy
By Michael Matza
Inquirer Staff Writer Andrea Collins Smith, 38, the "Punk Rock Mommy" whose online journal about her terminal illness was a heartbreaking yet uplifting fixture in cyberspace since her fateful diagnosis last year, died at her Fishtown home Saturday, just hours after her last blog posting.
"I am sure that some of you are profoundly saddened by my passing. Death is far more about the living than the dead," she wrote, opening herself for the final time to more than 70,000 monthly visitors to her Web site.
"But I believe in my whole heart that this is what was meant to be for us all. . . . I pray that none of you will ever get cancer, it sucks. But if you do or someone you love does I pray some of my words are a comfort to you all. Have a wonderful life. I will have a wonderful afterlife."
Smith's husband, tattoo artist Kelly Smith, said his wife died at 10:30 a.m. Saturday after respiratory complications.
"Her spirit was so bright. She touched a lot of people in a lot of different circles," he said, citing her passions for church, the punk underground, and groups concerned with maternal and child health.
"She really was the star of her show," said her friend Amy McConnell. "Everyone, it seemed, waited with bated breath to see what was going on with her life."
Avid followers certainly knew.
"I feel my body rushing toward death. New growths in my neck. New pain," she wrote on July 1. "And I no longer pray for more time. I really want to be in Heaven now. ASAP."
In May 2007, two days after graduating with a psychology degree from Temple University and two days before Mother's Day, the hipster mother of six whose tattoos and piercings were too many to count learned she had inflammatory breast cancer, a fast-spreading, generally incurable form of the disease.
Rallying around their stricken friend, the region's rockers, artists and self-styled outcasts turned out in force, cooking, cleaning, holding fund-raisers, and driving her to medical appointments.
Smith, whose life force never failed to register on people who met her, was widely known in the punk-grunge subculture anchored on South Street.
She liked to say she once held "the trifecta of cool jobs" - clerk at Zipperhead, waitress at Sugar Mom's, and office manager at the School of Rock, where students 9 to 17, including several of her own kids, learn to perform hot licks.
A parishioner at Kensington's Circle of Hope Church, Smith always prayed. After her diagnosis, she said last December, she had some "funny" conversations with God.
"I'm a mother. I just graduated from college. Now I have terminal cancer. I thought you wanted more from me. Besides, it's very cliched. Very Lifetime television," she said she told God.
On a serious note, she said, she came to understand that everyone's "life is very short. None of us knows how long we have . . ..
"You can sit around and wonder, 'Why me? Why me?' " she said in an interview with The Inquirer. "But do you ask yourself that when good things happen?"
Raised in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Smith moved to Philadelphia with her mother and sister when she was 17 and immediately fell in with the punk and new-wave scene.
In 1989, she married musician Tony "Jeeter" Collins. A year later, their son Alec was born. Then came Jesse, now 16; the twins, Asa and Tucker, now 14; and Bailey, now 11, the couple's only girl. They divorced in 2000.
Four years later, she married Smith. Twenty months ago their son, Clay, was born. Persistent soreness that developed during breast-feeding led to the discovery of her cancer.
She began the Web site - www.punkrockmommy.org - to keep family and friends apprised of her condition, but it quickly grew, acquiring an international following.
A memorial service for Smith will be held at 9:30 a.m. Monday at New Life Philadelphia Presbyterian Church, 425 E. Roosevelt Blvd.