My last visit with Anastasia

This was sent to members of the Virginia legislature during the 2018 General Assembly. Their response (not all), or lack there of, shows how morally bankrupt Virginia government has truly become. Nothing has changed since.

“I am broken by the events over the last year culminating in the horrific death of my precious sister Anastasia.   My faith has been shaken to its core and faith in my fellow man no longer exists.  I know we are told, or it is said, we should not question God but I awake each morning and go to sleep each night with the questions “God why did you let them kill Anna?  Why did you allow them to isolate her and make her die alone?”  Every day and throughout the day I ask “why”?  As I awake with these questions and the pain and sorrow that instantaneously come with the opening of my eyes, with the realization that my beloved sister Anastasia is no longer on this earth, my body is tense and ridged – sometimes to the point of shivering.  I want to hide under the covers and not emerge.  I know I cannot so each day begins with a heavy and weeping heart that remains with me until my body takes over and sleeps again however briefly.


            I see the ever-present image of my sister Anastasia and what they did to her, how they tortured and tormented her.  I see how her body collapsed into itself when they took away her food source and water.  I see how her eyes void of moisture dulled and her eyelids stuck frozen mid-blink so the lower third of her left eye was exposed in a dull perpetual stare; and how the eyeball itself showed no moisture, dry like a dehydrated sunny side up egg – the yolk her pupil.  I see my sister Anastasia trying to see me, her right eye frozen shut, her hands – so dehydrated – literally skin and bone, her body emaciated not even able to hold up her head.


            On my last visit with my sister, November 15, 2017, I prayed with her reciting the Lord’s Prayer then asking God to give her His strength; telling Anna (as we in the immediate family called her) she needed to be strong that we were going back to California when we got her out of this, that our things were packed and I had already gotten an estimate from the moving company.  I told her to conserve her strength but to be strong, that I was going in front of a judge in the morning to make them restart her feeding and her water.  I told her I had filed an emergency petition with the Virginia Supreme Court on November 13, 2017 to stay and reverse their actions pending the appeal of the guardianship (the Writ Panel had been scheduled for December 5, 2017.)


            Instead of playing a movie on her iPad as we usually did, most of the hour long visit I felt compelled and could do nothing more than to keep repeating “I love you sissy, I love you precious sissy, I love you Anna, I love you Anna-Nana” over and over while holding and gently stroking her hand, leaning over so she could hopefully see my face.


            When the nurse and CNA came to take my sister Anastasia back to her room, (we were forced to visit in the lobby where we could be watched), I gave her a hug and kiss (an action that took me months of pleading with the guardians to obtain permission) and told her I would see her tomorrow because we were also asking the court to relax the visiting restrictions.  As they wheeled Anastasia away she weakly began waving her left hand.  The nurse/aide stopped with an astonished look on her face and stated, “She’s waving at you!”  I replied, “I have told you she understands everything you say to her and is aware of what goes on around her, she also speaks to those she trusts.”  I again started telling Anastasia “I love you sissy, I’ll see you tomorrow.”  


            As they began wheeling Anastasia to the hallway that led to her room Anastasia suddenly reared up in her chair, pushing herself pack trying to turn her head to see while simultaneously waiving her left hand more strongly than before, as if to say Wait!.  They did not stop to allow us another moment together.  I was not allowed to accompany her to her room.  I was not allowed further than the public restrooms at the entrance of the facility.


            As I gathered the items I always carried with me for visits with Anastasia, items I had begun taking with me wherever I went since her emergent hospitalization on September 6, 2017, still being watched by the Envoy receptionist, I fought back a tidal wave of tears not wanting them to see me cry.  Anastasia would be dead no more than 24 hours later.  And because of the restrictions put in place by the guardians my precious beautiful sister Anastasia would die alone without family, friends, or clergy there to hold her hand, comfort, or pray with and over her – to give her the last rites of the Church.


            I had called the Virginia Supreme Court on November 14, 2017, the day before our last visit, and was told they were denying my petition to stay the guardians and Envoys actions.  When I asked what was the Courts reason I was told by the Deputy Clerk she “did not know because it had not been written yet.”  I then asked if a copy could be faxed or emailed to me because I would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Deputy repeated it had not been written yet but I could call back the next day to check. (I did not receive the order until after she died).


            I spent the entire night awake alternately pacing the floor and drafting a brief for Judge Stephen Shannon to revisit and clarify his order for guardianship of Anastasia, specifically his intent regarding the changing her “code” status and the guardians removing her food source and water.  When the sun rose on November 16, 2017 I gathered everything I even thought I might potentially need and headed to the Alexandria Circuit Court to appear in front of Judge Lisa Kemler. 


            Judge Kemler denied our emergency petition to reinstate food and water stating the “[guardians] are well respected, trusted, here and in Fairfax County, skilled, and always execute [their] duties in the most professional manner” – in other words “we will never rule against them.” (This is not the first time comments such as these have been made by judges in Alexandria Circuit Court.) [And total bullshit].


            I then went to the Fairfax Circuit Court.  I sat in Judge Shannon’s courtroom until I could speak with his bailiff who then spoke with and provided him a copy of the emergency motion.  While waiting to see a judge on the 3:00pm emergency calendar call docket I received an email (you read correctly – an email) from guardian Labowitz that my sister Anastasia had died at approximately 2:40pm; almost exactly 24 hours after I had told her I would see her tomorrow.  Undoubtedly she was waiting for me, counting the hours, then minutes and seconds until I would arrive as I said I would.


            This entire situation is a travesty of epic proportions.  No one should be ripped away from loving and caring family.  No one should die alone and guardians – professional guardians who make their living off the pain and suffering of the elderly and disabled, the vulnerable – should not have carte blanche power to isolate wards from family especially where no abuse, neglect, or exploitation has been alleged or found.  Judges should be restricted from granting guardianships in such cases and must be required to deny such requests to deny, limit, or restrict visitation and access to the ward by family, friends, and clergy.


            My sister Anastasia is dead and she should not be.  She died alone and almost certainly scared [and should not have]. The vision of my sister waving and trying to see me, rearing up as if to say “Wait! Stop! Not Yet!” constantly replays itself in my mind.  Accompanied with the thought why didn’t I run after her?  Why didn’t I beg, yell “Wait! Please give us more time! Please! We need more time!”  This vision, among others, will haunt me for the rest of my life.  The “what ifs” or “should haves” will be a constant companion until I am reunited with my sister.


            But the bottom line and the reality of the situation is that I should not have had to beg to see my sister.  I should not have had to beg to spend time with her, to be by Anastasia’s side, especially once they decided to end her life.  No one should have to beg and plead with anyone let alone strangers to see and be with their loved one especially if they are dying.  God by whatever name you choose to call Him, and by whatever means you choose to worship Him, commands us to protect and care for the vulnerable for “the least of these” among us.”  The law as it stands now fails that mandate.  The laws regarding guardianships and how they are handled in Virginia as they now stand violate the U.S. Constitution because they strip the individual of their constitutional rights.  Our constitutional rights are afforded and apply to all natural born citizens at birth. These rights are the one constant in our nation, other than taxes. Natural born U.S. citizens may not be stripped of their citizenship. And an incapacitated person is still a citizen of this country unless prior to their incapacitating event they voluntarily renounced their citizenship. Therefore a guardianship may not strip or deprive an incapacitated person of their inherent constitutional rights granted at birth; including but not limited to the right to association with family as was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Stanley v. Illinois (1975) [that family association rose to a constitutional right.]


            Again I thank you for your assistance and hope this letter helps to clarify the situation and help with the passage of this and other legislation to prevent what has happened to our family, and to stop it from ever happening to anyone else.  I have included the link to a short 16 minute YouTube video that chronicles what Anastasia and our family went through in the last year to help drive home the importance of and need to reform guardianship laws in Virginia  ( We can do better and must do better.



                                                                        Yolanda Bell”